Thursday, March 30, 2006

To Blog or Not to Blog? Much Ado About Not Much.

Looking at the proliferation of blogs on the net, it looks like very soon everyone on earth will have 15 Megabytes of fame. ~ with apologies to M.G. Siriam
Paul McNamara of Network World posted a little gem in his BuzzBlog the other day which could be considered one more chunk of fallout from Microsoft's announcement about delaying the consumer version of Vista. In his item, Mr. McNamara tells us how Nicholas Carr, of “IT Doesn't Matter” fame, took Robert Scoble, of Scobleizer fame, to the woodshed for getting crabby in his blog. It seems that Mr. Scoble had a bad week and got rather cantankerous toward some of the comments being posted on his site. Mr. Carr uses the occasion to lecture one and all with several tips on corporate blogging, the first of which is “Don't.” (For particulars, follow the links in BuzzBlog.)
What a lot of hoo-hah. All Mr. Carr is doing is increasing Mr. Scoble's already formidable readership. I've checked out Scobleizer a few times. Mr. Scoble is what Microsoft calls an “evangelist.” Basically, his job is to espouse new ideas and spread the news. Mr. Scoble has been known to go off on some oddball tangents, spilling the beans now and then about something that he possibly should not have. Of course, that just brings more attention to Microsoft, which is what they had in mind in the first place.
I don't read Sobleizer because I find the writing to be rather sophomoric. Also, Mr. Scoble, like any good tech evangelist, is never far from broadband access (the lucky slob), so he blogs and blogs and blogs, giving us such deep insights as it being 2:44 AM and he needs sleep. Go beddy-bye, Robert, please. On the other hand, he has about 10 zillion times more readers than I do, so maybe I should try his approach.
Nah. When I get sleepy, I get even more incoherent than I usually am. No use pushing my luck.
Anyway, Mr. Carr is using Mr. Scoble's fatigue-laced blog as a prime example of why corporate blogs are a bad thing. I actually agree with Mr. Carr in principle, but the Scoblizer has nothing to do with it. Let's consider two types of corporate blogs: External and internal.
I can't imagine what a company gains by having a public blog. I can see content publishers, like Network World, wanting their writers to maintain blogs, because that's another way to draw readership, which draws eyeballs to their ads. The writers can write snippets about items that might not warrant a full article, and news reporters can use the space to freely editorialize. But other corporations have little to gain unless the “blog” is nothing more than a nice location for press releases or technical information. Give employees a chance to post anything they think of in an environment where everyone on the planet can see it, and sooner or later one of them will stuff their size nines right down their own throat.
It's part of the e-mail syndrome. Ever since the first e-mail, people have been shooting their mouths off and living to regret it. In the olden days, you had to dictate or hand write a memo which would then be typed and returned for you to proofread and sign. Many a foolhardy letter to a superior or customer never saw the light of day because of that fortuitous delay. Now, once the e-mail has been slammed out, that “send” button is just too conveniently place. Click and out she goes, typos, sarcasm, and all. Blogs seem to work the same way. Whether it's someone at Google blabbing out some internal info, or Mr. Scoble cussing out a reader (and potential customer), stuff seems to be getting into blogs that shouldn't be there.
Internal blogs aren't much better. Some Chief [insert function here] Officers were just wild about all the wonderful idea-sharing that internal blogs can generate. Or at least they were a couple of years ago. I haven't seen many of those articles lately, probably, I suspect, because internal blogs will surely tend to reflect whatever dissatisfactions are being felt by the employees. At some point, a manager will decide to put a stop to this nonsense by either a) firing off an ill-worded reply that only fans the flames, or b) punishing the malcontents which also fans the flames. The ultimate result is that the internal blog is removed, which only increases discontent.
Ever had a suggestion program where you work? Ever notice how fast it disappeared? Same kind of thing, except that the suggestions (like “Fire all top management!”) didn’t get published for everyone to see.
It's not that blogs are bad; I read a few on a regular basis, although they tend to be news-oriented. But there seems to be so much fuss over what some people put into them. There are taken much more seriously than their importance demands. Just because something is published on the Internet is no guarantee that it is accurate or even remotely intelligent. And that's okay, too, because sometimes people like to just sort of run off at the mouth without having to think a great deal about what they say. Some great ideas have come about that way. Some really dumb ideas come about, too, but that’s the price one pays for an open forum.
Blogs have their place, and people need to know where that is. Personally, I follow a simple rule. Never put anything in a blog that you wouldn't want to see on a billboard in the middle of town. Beyond that, go for it.
After all, it's only a blog.

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