Friday, March 16, 2007

re: the re: to my blog about blogs

BRILLIANT! (I feel like those guys in the beer commercial)

The latest advice for making this blog useful includes more dialog, more publicity of our capabilities, and more frequency. Okay, got it. Taking them in order, if a blog becomes valuable when a discussion breaks out, what makes that different than a discussion forum? I don’t think it’s a matter of semantics, so I want to understand how blogs are different than discussion forums. And, if they’re not, what’s all the buzz about? Discussion forums have been around for a long time, and IMHO the killer app for communities of practice. So I do like the idea of the exchange! If I now start calling discussion forums blogs, will that change the dynamics of them?

On to the matter of publicizing our smarts… Good idea if I want to push our products and services, but I’m not a particularly good salesman, and this model feels very salesy. In fact, it feels like if all I do is to extol our virtues, pretty soon I’m going to want to apply to our sales and marketing department. I can do this bit of shameless promotion though—here’s our website URL: Note that we’re a “.org” and that we do lots of cool stuff, especially in the area of knowledge management, where our president Carla O’Dell is one of the true thought leaders in the world. Whew! That was a lot for me—more promotion next time.

More frequency? I’ve posted 4-5 times in this one week alone! I’m tired. This is hard work for me, especially when I’m trying to keep my attention focused on client needs. Now in fairness, I still only care about internal knowledge sharing, so this externally facing blog doesn’t answer the WIIFM, but I am still responsible for it. So—a tidbit of external knowledge sharing? How about this? Stan Garfield runs a really cool community where there are discussions about KM related issues; in the community’s discussion forum.

Okay, enough of running down my own blog. Here’s something that is important and that needs more attention: knowledge retention and transfer. I just finished a two-day workshop with an industry group whose main concern is the impending implosion of the industry from the rash of retirements expected in the next five years or so. This is an industry-wide problem, so not only is it an issue at one organization, it creates a poaching problem for all the organizations in the industry. And don't think you don't have to worry about "their" problem. This industry is necessary for every one of us in the U.S. every single day, 24/7/365. If anything, you should be glad that these folks are as far ahead of the curve as they are with this issue--your life may literally depend upon it.

More broadly, many organizations from many industries are also worried about the issue (as evidenced by our study that currently includes 31 sponsoring companies and another half dozen or so best practice partners). So what is your organization doing about this potential meltdown of institutional knowledge? By the way, at this workshop I just attended, a term was used that I had never heard previously—“Y2Gray.” Meaning that perhaps the sky isn’t falling and that the hype of loss of institutional knowledge is just that—similar to the Y2K non-problem of a few years ago. So which is it?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

More blogging about blogs

First, allow me to state up front and clearly that I truly appreciate the response to my last blog post on blogs. It’s that kind of discourse that I’d love to have on this and other subjects as a way of learning what others are thinking. The valuable time that folks read—and sometimes even respond to—my ramblings humbles me. Since I’m unconvinced of the business value of blogs and am still testing that hypothesis, I struggle with appropriate knowledge (read: useful) to be shared. So please do continue to read if you find value in this, and definitely respond if you don’t.

Before I continue, let me also restate my basic premise about blogs: They’re not ready for business prime time (but I will modify that statement later in this post). I’m no fortune teller, and I don’t even play one on television, but I have been known to be on the bleeding edge on more than several occasions—and been wrong—so there’s precedent here if I’m wrong again.

Sidebar: In thinking of how I’ve arrived at the conclusion I’m often on the bleeding edge, I offer these examples of what I’ve purchased in the past:

  • First fully automated shutter controlled 35mm SLR – Konica – no longer in the SLR business
  • First “portable IBM PC compatible computer” – Columbia Data Systems – company defunct
  • Early consumer videotape recorder (Betamax) – well, you know that story
  • First front wheel drive car since the re-introduction in 1966 – Olds Toronado – company defunct
  • First satellite phone company – Iridium – if you’re still holding their stock (like my son bought based upon my recommendation) use it for scratch paper
  • Early laptop computer – Texas Instruments Travelpro – got out of the business, sold it to Acer
  • Early compact PDA (PCMCIA card size) – Franklin REX – sold to Xircom and immediately discontinued

Bottom line: Before you buy anything technology related, make sure I haven’t already selected it—it’s sure to be a loser.

Having said that, I got a great response that I would like to re-post in its entirety as well as address each of the points the responder made about my blog misgivings. Others on the blogs-are-good side of the fence are also encouraged to respond, since enabling technologies for the next generation of knowledge workers is my academic research interest and I can always use more data points. So, below is the response to my blog about blogs, and my response to that is contained in [brackets]. Again, thanks for the response and insightful perspective.


It seems to me that you are missing some of the main rationales for blogs.

Your article seems to paint blogs as if they are just an extension of the traditional diary, but they are not . . . diaries are private, blogs are public.

[Beyond the obvious that diaries were intended to be private and blogs public, blogs still suffer from the same linear thinking, i.e., chronological order based upon the most recent thoughts. What is considered critical knowledge is purely from the perspective of the blogger, not in collaboration with the receiver, or the business.]

The purpose of a blog is to share thoughts, to build an audience, to communicate, to network, to connect with other people, etc. A blog can be a marketing tool, a social networking software tool, assist with dissemination of knowledge and, in some cases, stewardship of knowledge. Where appropriate in context, it could lead to lead generation and business opportunities.

[We’re in agreement with the above, that blogs can provide leads, connect people, market, and so on, but—because of the ad hoc nature of the blog posts, the value rendered is limited in my humble opinion. The fact remains, that even if blogs are used as knowledge stewarding devices, they still suffer from the same problem as more formal knowledge stewarding devices, valuable content needs to be put into them. I would go on to argue that for formal systems, say Lessons Learned databases for example, their structured nature not only ensures that certain valuable information is made explicit and stewarded, it also ensures that every “post” is considered of value. How many blog posts can be said to be of value? 100%? 50%? 10%?]

So, from the supply side there could be quite a bit 'in it for me'. Looking around, I can see some people have put considerable thought into their blogging strategy and carefully monitor their metrics and the value they add to their readership.

See for more discussion of how blogs can add business value (but bear in mind there has been some discussion around this article in the blogosphere you might want to chase up)

[While I read the nano-marketing article regarding blog ROI, I also attempted to go to the source, Forrester, for the full-text article. With no success there, I then went to an electronic library and found another article I found of interest. In this article, the writer states, “Most blogs are a complete waste of time. They’re often personal labours of love, heavy on personality and light on useful content” (source: Holloway, A. (25 Dec 2006 – 14 Jan 2007). To blog, or not to blog?, Canadian Business, 80(1), p. 15. Retrieved March 12, 2007 from ProQuest electronic database.) By the way, if you were expecting me to reference a quote that doesn’t support my own bias, get real!

Back to the nano-marketing article, GM was cited in it as having calculated a 99% ROI in 2005 from its consumer facing blogging efforts. How they determined that I won’t dispute. However, it does help me focus my argument a bit more. That blogs are not ready for business prime time—as an internal knowledge sharing tool. Use it for marketing and consumer feedback, fine. I happen to be in the business of helping organizations manage their internal knowledge needs, and here I am adamant that their value has yet to be realized. (more on that in my next post if I remember to write about it)

By the way, another side note here. The suggestion that I research other blogs about the value of blogs was well intended, but I simply didn’t feel I had the time available to do that. Still a problem (trust, time, incentive) for knowledge management systems in general, and still a problem for blogs I argue. And, as long as I’m on the subject of other blogs, if I remember correctly, I stated that there are some 60-million blogs out there. If even 1/10 of 1% are business related, that leaves me with 60,000 potential useful blogs to read. If even 1/10 of 1% of those are any good, then I have only 60 blogs to read. But, will I read even 12 per day? WOW! I just realized, if you’re reading my blog—THANKS!]

At the end of the day, a blog is a content management system that because it is simple to use is used, and doubles to serve many business functions e.g. networking, lead generation, information sharing, idea sourcing / sharing, etc.

[Simplicity is good, but not at the expense of usability. If you’re at all familiar with Lotus Notes (no endorsement should be inferred here), you’d note that it is both a formidable content management system that can also accommodate blogs without losing its usability—for the retriever of knowledge. In general, the use of discussion forums—which I humbly submit is the “killer app” of knowledge sharing—is at least the equal of blogs, and can be structured to look like blogs if that’s what people need to see in order to use them. In fact, even with such structure, discussion forums are woefully underused.

In the case of this blog in particular, have you ever even attempted to find something posted more than a year ago? Would you even know that I only took it over last Spring and that any posts prior to that weren’t even mine? Did you notice that I purposely reused a phrase (“don’t need no stinkin’…”) in my last headline to see if you recalled seeing it in an earlier post? All problems of blogs I say.]

On the demand, side, it's like anything else - if you can provide content people are interested in, they'll read it and come back for more, and if they aren't, they probably won't subscribe.

[I think this is the most useful and spot on argument of the response. I sure hope to post something of value before the noise out there is simply the clanging of my un-read blog inside my head. So far it hasn’t provided me a lick of business value (e.g., leads, new markets, contracts!)]

I think you need to rethink your stand! ;) A blog can be a very useful business tool.

[Believe it or not, I really am open to ruminating on this subject—I just need more time. And, remember, I’ve already restated my position to include only those blogs intended for internal consumption.]

However, as a system it is very primitive. No one would design it that way . . . e.g. it is difficult to syndicate comments (you can't get an rss feed to see who's commented in other people's posts you are interested in).

[Therein lies the blog’s key weakness—it’s too primitive for organizational knowledge sharing.]

But I think you'll see this area grow in business value and uptake.

[No doubt you’re right there. I just think that time isn’t today.]

Wikis? Again, they are content management systems, and they are useful for quick and dirty solutions and for some purposes (e.g. you noted Wikipedia). But I think for the corporate world they need extra features. But who cares? The corporate world already has sophisticated content management systems, which are wikis by another name - just not open source. So sure, arguably wikis might not take off in the corporate world, but if content management systems already have, isn't the point moot?

[I promised to tackle the subject of wikis later, and I will but not before we have a full discussion on blogs. So anyone who’s bothered to come this far with me, thank you. Give me your take and make this a real discussion. Oh yeah, I did enjoy the irony of using Wikipedia as a source—I would never allow it to be used as a reference from one of my own students!]

Monday, March 12, 2007

APQC is Hosting a KM Conference

Hey, I just wanted to let you guys know that APQC is hosting a KM conference in May.

It should be pretty cool because Jimmy Wales, founder of wikipedia, will be presenting.