Gina’s Blog

The Evolution of Blogging

Posted in Digital Technology by Gina on October 9, 2007
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The conclusion of Naked Conversations provided the clarity that I needed to create a compelling blog for personal, professional, or academic use.  (I sure wish I read this before my first post.)  This book is a comprehensive guide of blogging done right.

Being the good authors that they are, Scoble and Israel make sure to state that not everyone should blog.  For example, people who don’t have time, are boring, or may feel compelled to share confidential information should probably stay away from blogging.  Starting a blog and quitting it can be more detrimental than never having one at all.  A dull blog is basically a waste of time if no one wants to read what you have written.  And of course, sharing confidential information could get you fired or sued, which defeats the purpose of blogging.  It is also important to keep in mind that a blog should not be forced.  If you’re not in the mood to write, just wait.  Your lack of passion for your topic can come across in your writing, which will only turn off your audience.

Overall, the authors present a strong case that blogging is beneficial.  Plainly stated, dialogue beats monologue, and companies that continue to have open lines of communication will thrive.  If visitors post statements to a company blog that are exaggerated or untrue, quite often “evangelists” will come to the rescue, debating the issue without the company having to say a word.  Although this frequently happens, it is still important for companies to blog often to ensure they have the opportunity to personally respond to erroneous or exaggerated claims.

Just as important as the decision to blog or not to blog, it is also important to keep in mind the proper way to blog.  Weblog authors have to tread a fine line between publishing an interesting blog and publishing information that could cost them their jobs.  Weblogs that are too safe are looked at as dull, but discussing topics like how drunk everyone gets at the office parties could get you a fired.  Scoble and Isreal advise everyone to “blog smart” and familiarize themselves with company rules on blogging.  If there aren’t any set in place, read other company’s policies like IBM or Harvard Law School.  To ensure that your blog adheres to company regulations, it’s safest to post to your company Web site.  When developing a company blog site, the authors advise employers to either post rules of company blogging to an intranet site or create a site where employees can create their own blog smart policies.  I think the authors hit the nail on the head by encouraging employers to allow employees to create their own policies.  It shows trust for the employees and incorporates the grassroots aspect on which blogging was built.

The Corporate Weblog Manifesto lists great rules for maintaining a successful blog, but I’m not entirely sure I understood “#10 Know your influencers.”  The authors feel that if you are not able to get in touch with the influential people in your organization during a crisis, then you shouldn’t blog.  I would like a more in-depth explanation behind this statement.  I think that an employee could still provide behind the scenes information that could benefit the company, even if they don’t have a PR professional or top executive on speed dial.  Blogs are described to be very important during a time of crisis to share and spread information, but even a corporate weblog with minimal information is better than no information posted on the topic at all.

As a NASA employee, naturally I found the section on NASA’s agency response toward accidents like Challenger and Columbia particularly interesting.  Although I came onboard after most of the listed incidents, after reading this section I also wondered if NASA could have done more to help public perception, and if so has anything been done to ensure that future incidents can be addressed in a timely manner?  The answers are yes and yes.  Like most government agencies, we don’t send out many messages to the public without first going through a series of concurrences, and of course, this timeframe is not acceptable in the eyes of the public.  Coincidentally, I spoke with NASA’s Chief of Staff last week, and he informed me that the Deputy Administrator started a blog over the summer that is addressing many of the issues that concern the public.  I would like to hope that in the event of another accident, the Deputy Administrator will be one of the first to make a statement on behalf of the agency.

In contrast to blogs maintained by agency and company leaders, surprising to me, character blogs were overwhelmingly deemed lame by bloggers.  I can see why, but I thought it was a fun PR technique, as long as the consumer is aware that it is for promotional purposes.  I do, however, agree that a character blog written by PR staff is far less convincing than a blog written by a real person.  After reading about Vichy’s experience with character blogs, I was compelled to check the status of Vichy’s weblog, but couldn’t locate the site.  Of course, I was able to learn a little more about Vichy’s products during my search, so it wasn’t all in vain.  Fortunately, the blogosphere is forgiving.  Mistakes such as character blogs can be forgiven with an apology paired with action, just as Vichy was forgiven after acknowledging the company’s lack of understanding.

Blogs are steadily evolving.  The growth process started with search engines that contained the ability to search blogs for information.  More recently, RSS has become a steadily growing phenomenon allowing people to access blogs of various topics for as long or short as the reader would like.  Advertisers are also posting ads that are RSS-enabled, which is great for people who are trying to gather information on a specific product for a certain amount of time.  Unlike with e-mail, once you unsubscribe the messages really stop.  The next level of blogs is podcasting, which is another way of saying an audio blog.  Podcasting is growing even faster than text blogging and forecasters predict that it will only get better.  NASA is now using podcasts to discuss agency news, developments in space, student opportunities, and much more.  As also mentioned in the book, it is difficult for the agency to see a definite return on investment, but if there is a chance that podcasts are encouraging people to take an interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, it is definitely worth a shot.

Scoble and Israel managed to write a book that relays true passion for blogging and encourages others to also find passion in the act.  This book does an excellent job of explaining just how important blogging has become to our society.  I am definitely looking forward to seeing how blogging continues to evolve.


One Response to 'The Evolution of Blogging'

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  1. shel israel said,

    Thanks for this great review, Gina. I’m glad you liked the book.

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