This page looks at 'knowledge blogs' and at blogging as
It covers -
Mainstreaming of blogging - and reduced opportunities
for digital gurus after the excesses of the 1990s boom
- have been reflected in emergence of the corporate blog
or enterprise blog.
It is a phenomenon that has arguably attracted more theorists
and observers than actual practitioners, with a proliferation
of academic seminars, self-promotion by corporate blogging
enthusiasts and often uncritical reception by members
of the blogosphere. Estimates of uptake by business and
non-government organisations are problematical, as much
is presumably taking place behind firewalls on corporate
Corporate blogging has essentially taken two forms.
The first is blogging within organisations, sometimes
characterised as 'organisation memory', 'knowledge blogs'
(aka k-logs or klogs) or 'competitor intelligence' blogs.
It aims to capture an organisation's tacit knowledge,
provide a readily accessible repository of expertise,
facilitate project development, provide an annotated clipping
service about developments outside the organisation or
merely serve as a new communication mechanism across offices
The second form is blogging directed outside the organisation,
aimed at building a bridge between the organisation and
its customers or other stakeholders. Such blogs
have variously reported on a particular enterprise's activities
or sought to engage the interest of consumers in a specific
brand or product.
There are few accepted benchmarks for assessing the success
of uptake by organisations. It is unclear whether corporate
blogging delivers better results than traditional mechanisms
for sharing information or, more broadly, for building
a positive corporate culture.
blogging within organisations
Inevitably, media hubbub about blogging has been exploited
by the business consulting industry.
A range of pundits have accordingly explained how large
organisations can -
their tired internal newsletters (in print or electronic
formats) and blizzard of memoranda with a corporate
knowledge management (KM), organisation memory (OM)
and collective activity across units/locations through
group blogs published on the corporate intranet, supplementing
or replacing information sharing through mechanisms
such as Lotus Notes
teams ("the blog on your intranet is a club-house
... a tree-house for your people, where everyone can
competitor intelligence, equipping executives and staff
with a flow of news items or other information from
outside the information and enabling those readers to
'value add' by commenting on such news feeds
marketing through a blog aimed at readers outside the
effectiveness of such prescriptions is uncertain. As we
noted above, figures about intranet blogs and wikis
are contentious, if only because most are protected by
corporate firewalls. Few organisations disclose their
existence; fewer still provide an indication of costs
In considering blogs aimed at employees it is unclear
whether an intranet blog crafted in the internal public
relations unit or by the CEO's executive assistant will
be seen as more appetising, authentic or trustworthy than
current offerings. Blogging as a mechanism for sharing
expertise among staff may be attractive simply because
most technical manuals are indigestible (although identifying
the content and status of information in a manual may
There are few serious studies about work-group implementation
and many of the statements about perceived benefits appear
to have been adapted from problematical assertions about
the value of blogging per se.
has been claimed
blogs help encourage brain dumps, exploration, and think-aloud
behaviour. They create connected content, break down
silos, allow comments, and can also be treasured as
useful searchable archives
help write thought pieces to guide the organisation
on a strategic path. Bloggers can collect and connect
information and provide useful overlays of context.
Arguably such a knowledge (and people) centric organisation
will avail itself of alternative mechanisms, including
f2f meetings and reports.
a question of corporate culture?
Michael Herman perceptively notes that "for those
that have been around long enough, blogging is another
instance of the 'technology wheel of reincarnation'",
on scope for overplaying the analogy of corporate blogging
and water cooler conversation.
interaction is nothing like water cooler conversation.
Blogging is inherently neither two-way nor conversational.
Rather blogging is a high-tech version of bathroom graffiti
that enables a person to:
scan (and optionally read) thousands of cubicle walls
with little or no effort, and
b) during a moment of contemplation, add a few new
scribbles to their stall wall
blogger reflected comments earlier in this profile, suggesting
companies don't see the value of having people document
anything, much less their daily thoughts. Mostly this
is an ROI problem (or a perceived one). Writing good
documentation is hard; writing a weblog that is worth
the company time it takes to write it (remember, most
people won't write on their own time to benefit the
company) is also hard ...
If somebody is a good writer, they're probably not going
to be using that energy for the benefit of the company;
they probably have their own weblog out there that talks
about stuff they really care about, or some other creative
project outside the company's control
of the hype about corporate blogging is an echo of misplaced
enthusiasm for groupware (from which few organisations
have secured the expected returns) and more broadly for
knowledge management, highlighted in works such as The
Knowledge Web (London: Kogon Page 2000), Working
Knowledge (Boston: Harvard Business School Press
2000) by Thomas Davenport & Laurence Prusak, Knowledge
& Communities (London: Butterworth 2000) by Eric
Lesser, Michael Fontaine & Jason Slusher, Davenport's
Information Ecology: Mastering the Information and
Knowledge Environment (Oxford: Oxford Uni Press 1997)
and the 2007 Different Knowledge, Different Benefits:
Toward A Productivity Perspective On Knowledge Sharing In Organizations
by Martine Haas & Morten Hansen.
It also assumes that all organisations are the same or
- with a dash of klogging - could be.
Many organisations are poorly equipped to launch and maintain
work unit blogs or wikis because there are
champions within the organisation or its peers
that blogging is not 'real work'
inability, in practice, to measure the return on investment
about the autonomy of authors
about responses if particular text is disputed or inappropriate
substantial existing investments in groupware (ie in
licensing, hardware, training of users and management
mechanisms) and content management systems
culture that doesn't support autonomous information
collection and expression, particularly to readers outside
Some intranet blogs, for example, have only come to public
attention when particular posts have expunged or the organisation
has belatedly developed a policy on internal and external
Such concerns have not deterred specialist businesses
that offer to manage the corporate blogging process or
even author a blog on behalf of a work group or the wider
organisation. One of our more irreverent clients compares
that process to 1970s experiments with poets in residence
- creativity was apparently supposed to diffuse from "an
unwashed zany longhair" and be absorbed by osmosis
- and the adventure training found in organisations that
fell victim to the paintball-&-chainsaw zeitgeist.
A blogging advocate asks
Imagine the internal individual blog of a charismatic
CEO. Instead of (or in addition to) those Friday afternoon
pep talks and the monthly e-mailing of the vision statement,
what if the CEO was constantly communicating with the
organization through her weblog? The informal tone and
personal nature would move beyond the image of CEO as
corporate figurehead, and reveal the CEO as a human
is an attractive image. We wonder, however, whether reality
might be more difficult.
Would the staff retrospectively savour the musings of
the CEO about loneliness at the top - or the chairman's
exhilaration about racing his 72 metre yacht - on hearing
that a division is to be eliminated or offshored to Bangalore?
What if they are all able to scribble on a cubicle wall
... and interact with members of the public or competitors
who can read the digital graffiti?
And would bloggers within a government agency bother to
put paws to keyboard if they knew that comment about the
latest budget cuts or bold ministerial initiative would
be identified and expunged by a corporate PR or IT unit
that has never embraced the 'tree-house' model?
Those concerns - and anxieties about inappropriate disclosure
of sensitive information, personal defamation, exposure
to liability or misplaced criticism of competitors - are
not restricted to blogs.
They are the same issues that have inhibited a range of
corporate media such as newsletters and have proved resistant
to prescriptions by Freire, Bakhtin or Michel de Certeau
evident in works such as Christine Boese's 2004 paper
The Spirit of Paulo Freire in Blogland: Struggling
for a Knowledge-Log Revolution, with claims that
a hidden and newly awakened army of interactive participants
who may be experiencing the kinds of unsettling (to
the powers that be) critical consciousness that is within
the goals of an increasingly democratized culture
blog comment on that paper hails de Certeau's
of the "wig" -- a diversionary tactic, in
which workers pursue their own agendas on company time
(without actually pilfering, or being unavailable for
"real" work should they need to reprioritize)
concept that will gladden the hearts of Negri & Hardt
but presumably not delight managers and colleagues in
most SMEs or large organisations.
In practice much 'human face' writing appears to be like
the following gem
from Demos ("a greenhouse for new ideas") -
of the coolest pieces of kit in our new office is by
far the saddle stitcher on our Canon. Alright, so I
may be alone in my evangelism, but it does do one thing
very, very well. It prints pdfs as A4 and A5 booklets.
For that matter, drop in a stack of single-sided pages,
tap a few keys, and after a bit of rumbling it spits
out a nicely folded, properly paginated, double-stapled
book -- while using only a quarter of the paper you
Recurrent use of military metaphors within major enterprises
has fostered interest in enterprise blogs as a tool for
competitor intelligence (CI).
Proponents of CI blogging have suggested that it would
replace traditional clipping services and media alerts
provided by an entity within the organisation (typically
the corporate library or public relations unit) or from
an external information provider.
Items would be abstracted by a specialist for presentation
on a blog accessed through the corporate intranet. Readers
of that blog would be able to comment on those items,
providing assessments, pointing to other sources of data,
identifying competitive opportunities and suggesting strategies.
One advocate comments
are also a useful, low-cost and flexible tool for competitive
intelligence (CI) ... Well-designed CI blogs can help
collect, analyse, package, and deliver current awareness
and early warning of competitive and regulatory developments
for sales staff and top managers ...
acclaimed as "one of ten masters of the Information
Economy" and author of Net Attitude: What It
Is, How to Get It, and Why Your Company Can't Survive
Without It (New York: Perseus 2001), suggests that
can potentially deliver the grassroots discussions and
knowledge-sharing that top-down, corporate-sponsored
efforts never could ...
You could call it knowledge management, but that's sort
of a hackneyed term, and a lot of people, as soon as
they hear KM, they immediately tune out. Actually, I
think KM is going to come back again. It never left,
it really is important. It's just never been able to
work very effectively. Some people have said it was
overhyped, but I say it was underdelivered. Nobody argued
with the potential of it, it's just that it didn't really
happen. Why? For the most part, it was based on the
idea of imposed collaboration: Making it work required
centralized control over the knowledge and the sharing
of it. It's a good theory, but it simply hasn't worked.
A lot of companies made people fill out skills profiles,
on the theory that when someone, say, needs help with
a Linux server installation, they can go into the KM
database and find out who the experts are in the company.
The problem was that the best experts wouldn't cooperate
and considered it beneath them, and at the other extreme,
people who worried about getting laid off would be happy
to expose their skills, which may or may not be that
are unconvinced that blogging will change those attitudes.
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