To blog, or not to blog…

Self publication on the Internet has existed in various forms for many years, initially via newsgroups and then through the world wide web; however it is the rise of (we)blogging that has taken this to new levels, as software provides two key features:

  • Automatic page generation (using blog engines such as Blogger, TypePad or .Text).
  • Syndication, allowing aggregators to republish content and readers to keep track through online or offline blog clients.

In his recent article, harness the power of blogs, which appeared in IT Week, Tim Anderson comments that:

    “[Companies] have picked up the potential of the medium, and use it to their advantage, encouraging staff to blog. This does not come so easily to companies that have a culture of secrecy. But frankly, maintaining secrecy in the blog era is nearly impossible.”

At Conchango, many of our consultants have maintained their own blogs for some time now. Recognising the potential in the technology, company-sponsored blogging has recently been launched via the Conchango blogging community and blogging is encouraged, as noted last month by Scalefree in why professional service firms should blog. As far back as June 2003, in another IT Week column, Ken Young reported on why blogging is good for business and to quote part of the article:

    “Just like the use of instant messaging, personal publishing through weblogs is likely to get an icy reception in most firms concerned about security and ‘need-to-know’ issues. But smart companies will see that the advantages far outweigh the negatives. They will recognise that weblogging is a new form of knowledge management that has a vital time-based ingredients making it easy to see what another person is currently working on or discussing. If you need encouragement, bear in mind that weblogs are now a common feature in search results on Google”.

Blogging is big. That’s why so many of the major search engines now have a blogging presence – Google owns Blogger, Bloglines has been bought by Ask Jeeves and Microsoft (MSN Search) recently launched MSN Spaces.

But there is a dark side too – as Thomas Lee notes in his recent post on the dangers of blogging, some people may find it difficult to know what can and cannot be said without getting fired, leading to some bloggers being “dooced“. Blogger are even posting advice on how not to get fired because of your blog.

One example of an unlucky blogger is Ellen Simonetti (aka Queen of Sky), who was sacked for posting “inappropriate” pictures to her blog, diary of a flight attendant. From the pictures that I have seen, it appears that her employer took issue with the fact that she was wearing her company uniform and was on board one of their aeroplanes at the time that the pictures were taken. It seems to me (and remember that my blog entries are based on personal opinions and do not not necessarily reflect the views of my employer) that whilst invoking a disciplinary process may have been seen by her employers as necessary, firing her was complete overkill, especially as CNN reports that the same (cash-strapped) airline is now investing in sexier uniforms.

Quoting Anderson’s January comment in IT Week again:

    “Firms are just getting to grips with email privacy and appropriate use policies. Such policies should now be extended to blogs, before more people lose their jobs for breaching non-existent guidelines.”
    “It is also wise to consider the PR impact of sackings and litigation and of acknowledging problems and trying to fix them. The bottom line is that blogs work best for firms with nothing to hide. That means they help to drive up standards, which has to be good news.”

Luckily, my employer does have such a policy (and I have been conscious to follow it whilst writing this post on the pros and cons of blogging). For anyone thinking of instigating such a policy, Ray Ozzie’s Weblog has some useful advice and if you are thinking about starting out with a blog, check out digital diaries: the art of blogging.

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