Thursday, March 22, 2007

Blog no more..on the subject of blogging, that is

Last week and this brought me new data points that have convinced me conclusively that blogs won’t be anything I recommend to my clients any time soon for knowledge sharing. For the record, let me again repeat that I think blogs will show some business value in the future—they’re already ubiquitous—but they’re just not going to be on my menu of knowledge sharing devices today. So let’s go over the latest good advice I received:

Describe the business value of the blog—essentially understand the value proposition of using the blog. Fair enough, and the same advice we would give to our clients regarding any aspect of knowledge sharing we would guide them to undertake. Old news. Let’s presume for a moment that an internal company blog is intended to decrease the time to competency of its employees. I’d like to learn of an example from among the 60-million+ blogs out there where the company thinks it has earned back its investment.

Blogs as discussion forums and discussion forums as blogs? Well, discussion forums have so much over blogs that if you want to use the discussion forum device and call it a blog, I’d be very happy. Down with blogs, l ong live the discussion forum!

Next, keep the posts short. I like this one and will do all I can to adhere to it. Interestingly however, our president Carla O’Dell sent me a link to an article regarding blog and wiki security concerns. Within that article was a hotlink to a large technology company’s blog site, where any employee can have a blog—for internal or external consumption. Wanting to conduct research I went to the site, sought out the top read poster, and spent some time reading it. Lots of long personal rants, some links to other information, and in the end, completely useless for anything that I personally care about.

The final nail in the coffin for me was an article in the March 20, 2007 issue of The Wall Street Journal. Ever hear of Twitter or Dodgeball? They’re among the latest rage—wireless instant messaging and social networking all rolled into one. I can hardly wait to hear of a company that espouses the virtues of those sites!

Oh, one last item—to those who would hijack my blog by responding with something like, “I like your blog, please go see mine at uselessstuff.blog.com” are assured of only one thing—I wouldn’t go to your blog even if you paid me to do so. You obviously don’t understand a key fact of knowledge sharing; that you don’t get any play if you aren’t trusted, and frankly, I don’t trust you.

So that’s it—I kept this as short as I could. And in the words of that famed philosopher Forrest Gump, “That’s all I’m going to say about it.” On to something else!

11 comments:

Shawn Callahan said...

Gee Jim, you really have a downer on blogs. I won't list 10 reasons why a company should have a blog but let me relate this experience.

About a 18 months ago I heard David Maister (professional services guru) had started a blog, so I went and had a look and posted some comments. As I run a niche consulting firm my partners and I thought it would be good to get some advice from David so I sent him an email. We thought we could pay for an hour of his time to answer some specific questions. The next day my phone rang. "It's David Maister from Boston Shawn. Thought I would just give you a call to talk about your request." He continued, "Look Shawn, I don't typically consult to small businesses. My cost structure just doesn't allow it." I said that's OK we were only looking to use an hour of his time. "Shawn, I charge $20,000 per day and the minimum cost is one day." Gulp. It was out of our price range. But then David said, "But Shawn, we're friends now. You have been commenting on my blog, so I would be happy to have this conversation without charge." To me that is the business benefits of blogs.

Dr. Lauchlan A. K. Mackinnon said...

McKinsey's latest global survey of executives seems to disagree with you.

http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/article_page.aspx?L2=16&L3=16&ar=1913&pagenum=1

The survey points out that executives seem to by and large see high value in web 2.0 including blogging and wikis, particularly for collaboration and networking.

But if you don't want to know about it, you don't want to know about it . . . ;)

Dr. Lauchlan A. K. Mackinnon said...

Hmm, that link didn't paste well. If interested, search for "How businesses are using Web 2.0: A McKinsey Global Survey" on the McKinsey Quarterly website.

Jim Lee, PMP said...

Shawn, thanks for this data point. This is exactly the kind of evidence I’m looking for. So now I can relate an example where blogging has provided you with a $20,000 cost avoidance, and more importantly a direct line to causation. If you’ve got more of these, please feel free to respond.

By the way, can you mention my comment to David on his blog? I not only have every one of his books (in hardback no less), I also have an RSS feed to his Business Masterclass series of podcasts. Now that’s a technology I can get behind. I’ve got those puppies loaded up on my iPod and I’m listening to them in the airport, on the plane, or just about anytime I’m waiting around in line somewhere.

Actually, please feel free to post your blog address here (and David’s if you and he don’t mind) and I promise to start reading it. If yours is good, maybe I can get some benefits of the viral networking from it. See? You’re changing my behavior already.

P.S. Last thing for this post, I am on www.LinkedIn.com. Link to me.

Jim Lee, PMP said...

Ouch! Dr. Mackinnon! From my most prolific responder no less! The most crushing of blows to a researcher—to say that I am close-minded—that hurts.

Okay, so wanting to find out more about the McKinsey survey, I searched and found—a blog post about it! What I ran across was this: http://www.roughtype.com/archives/2007/03/american_compan.php. Unfortunately, my eyes zeroed in on this, “Forrester didn't break out adoption rates by tool, it did say that CIOs saw relatively high business value in RSS, wikis, and tagging and relatively low value in social networking and blogging.” Now of course I’m being selective and the Forrester citation wasn’t the McKinsey survey at all, but if it illustrated one thing to me it’s that there isn’t a consensus on the value of blogs just yet (something like one medical study saying stay away from coffee and another saying drinking it improves your chances of avoiding a stroke—I’m in the latter camp because I love coffee).

So for argument sake let me say, blogs are good. I think what I need to think about is the relative value of blogs. That is, what is return for the effort compared to other knowledge sharing tools. Now, let me consider how good blogs are if I’m faced with limited resources and prioritization issues like other projects that are viewed under the lens of rate of return (however you want to define ROI).

That will be the topic of my next post. For now I give this a rest.

P.S. Please go ahead and post your blog address here so I can start reading it. And then if you’re interested in responding, you can do so on your own blog (for your own readers) while knowing that I’ll still be aware of it.

Dr. Lauchlan A. K. Mackinnon said...

Hi Jim,

my blog is

http://lauchlanmackinnon.blogspot.com/

I haven't yet written the article on my blog about blogging metrics. It's near the top of the list though . . .

In the meanwhile, I would like to comment on a few examples of companies that are using blogs extensively and successfully. For example, two software development companies - Microsoft and Borland (now CodeGear) - found blogs to be fantastic tools to engage with their user communities. Borland, for example, transitioned from a closed relationship with the research engineers essentially remote and distant from their user base to a thriving, open culture with their development engineers connected with the user community. And this was largely through a company policy allowing Borland's research engineers to blog.

I don't avoid the fact that blogging has to be done appropriately within an organisation. In both cases, MS and Borland, the companies had a definite blogging policy, and I think they experimented a bit to find what worked for them. I think that in these two specific cases, however, there were definite and substantial benefits from blogging.

Another great example of blogging is Joel Spoelsky (see the 'Joel on Software' website) who has been blogging since before it was called blogging. The user base and attention he built up from blogging has, I would guess, pretty much sustained his business.

I'm not saying blogging *always* delivers value. I'm saying that I think that it can deliver considerable value when used appropriately and can be a valuable tool.

Kind regards,

Lauchlan Mackinnon

Dr. Lauchlan A. K. Mackinnon said...

Hi Jim,

btw, in the blog post you cited, it says

<<
[The Forrester Report] indicated that Web 2.0 is being broadly and rapidly brought into enterprises. Fully 89% of the CIOs said they had adopted at least one of six prominent Web 2.0 tools - blogs, wikis, podcasts, RSS, social networking, and content tagging - and a remarkable 35% said they were already using all six of the tools.
>>

I would like to hazzard the guess that if 35% are using all 6 web 2.0 tools, then something greater must be using blogging - and presumably getting some value from doing so.

Maybe there is some other research bearing on the question?

Regards

Lauchlan Mackinnon

Dr. Lauchlan A. K. Mackinnon said...

Another link on the Forrester paper:

http://news.zdnet.co.uk/internet/0,1000000097,39286443,00.htm

It suggests that

<<
"Chief information officers were most likely to view social networking and blogs as unnecessary, with a little more than half of respondents reporting as such,"
>>

That leaves almost half of them that thought that they were important. ;)

Dr. Lauchlan A. K. Mackinnon said...

BTW Jim,

I'm on LinkedIn too- http://www.linkedin.com/in/lauchlanmackinnon

You are welcome to link in if you would like. I have openlink enabled so the contact part is free.

Regards

Lauchlan Mackinnon

Ray Sims said...

Jim,

Please see Blog vs. Discussion Group (Again) for what I and few others see as the useful distinction between blogs and discussion groups.

Regards,
Ray

Annerose said...

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