Blogs are a great way to put information on the Web. They’re fast to implement, and most blogging solutions are dirt cheap. Here’s who’s using them.
New formats are intimidating. Remember buying your first DVD? Or your first book on tape? Felt odd at first, but soon it was natural.
Blogs are a new format. Approximatley four million people write blogs, and blogging is growing faster than when the Internet was experiencing its period of maximum growth. Nonetheless, when I asked the audience at a recent knowledge management conference how many of the three hundred people in the room maintained blogs, only three hands went up. As Neuromancer author William Gibson says, “The future has already arrived. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.”
So, if you’ve been reluctant to look into blogs, let me tell you some of the things you’ve missed.
How to read the LC Blog
An informal rule among bloggers is to keep the front page lean enough for you to skim and decide if you want to go deeper. So, some of the articles on the front page may seem short, but they usually end with “There’s more! Continue reading….” You will also see a line that reads “Comments”. Click it to add your own thoughts. Blogging can and should be quite participatory. If there’s a number attached, such as Comment (2), a click will show you previous comments.
Down the right-hand column of most blogs, you’ll find a search box and indexes to earlier entries by category or date. (The LC Blog shows only the most recent entries on the front page.) Also, the small, orange XML boxes at the bottom of the page enable users and organizations to syndicate content from the LC Blog.
Bottom-up organizations use blogs. Indeed, blogs are the leading edge of the social software movement that’s propelling the bottom-up, self-organizing reformation of versatile businesses. A bottom-up organization values the collective work of individuals over top-down authority; it supports cooperation and co-evolution in lieu of command and control. Instead of telling people what to do, it provides the networks that enable them to do what they want to do. Hence, they use blogs.
Schools are embracing blogs. They use them to create projects, offer and access feedback, study in groups, post assignments, develop portfolios, and build relationships.
Newspapers and newsletters blog, too. Why? Blogging is faster than printing and useful feedback is inevitable. Even Learning Circuits has its own blog where you’ll find a series of short pieces written by Clark Aldrich, Sam Adkins, Tony O’Driscoll, David Grebow, Clark Quinn, and a dozen other thought leaders. Some excerpt posts include
E-learning, by any other name...Is finding a factoid on Google “e-learning?”
Are we finally ready for the 80 percent piece of the puzzle? If most learning comes from adopting and adapting on the job, why don’t we invest more in it?
Train to imitate versus learn to innovate. What is learning all about?
Reshuffling the technological deck. Recent postings have highlighted affect, emotion, the informal and the social. How can they be built into manageable and productive training?
- Outsourcing learning? It may cut costs and improve efficiency, but at the cost of less informal learning and community development?
Blogs to reach out to customers. Let me tell you about a new marketing service I’m developing with DeepSun in San Francisco: customer blogs. These are designed to tear down the walls that traditionally separate corporations from their ultimate constituency. As The Cluetrain Manifesto says, “Corporate firewalls have kept smart employees in and smart markets out. It's going to cause real pain to tear those walls down. But the result will be a new kind of conversation. And it will be the most exciting conversation business has ever engaged in.”
With a simple customer blog in place, a company can make announcements to its Web customers immediately. All customers can benefit from a question asked by only one. To be sure, the intimacy found in blog culture conversation, customers can get to know workers—and vice-versa. Affiliation breeds loyalty. Customers begin to talk among themselves. A typo that would be an embarrassment in an advertisement becomes a sign of authenticity on a blog.
Overgeneralization alert: Blogs are informal, breezy, shoot-from-the-hip, personal, newsy, rapid-fire, defiantly individual, stream-of-consciousness, individualistic, enthusiastic, emotional, unfettered, daring, creative, and focused on the moment. As such, they embody the important messages of The Cluetrain Manifesto.
“Markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can't be faked.
Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do.
But learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about 'listening to customers.' They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.”
The Cluetrain Manifesto
One more example: Have you read about the campaign of presidential candidate Howard Dean? The opposition is building a war chest of hundreds of millions of dollars to inundate the American people with sound bites and attack ads. Dean is rallying crowds by blogging and using the power of the net. For pennies. Which would you prefer?
This story is a beginning, not an end. Let’s continue here, on the Learning Circuits blog. I’d like to hear what you think.