Corporate weblogs, barriers to adoption
Building on the example of the Scobleizer weblog (Robert Scoble works for Microsoft and blogs with the explicit assent of its employer), Edward Cone at Baseline offers an article about corporate blogging, The Scobleizer Versus Cerberus the Hound of Hades:
The most powerful piece of software inside Microsoft may be the $40 application from a tiny vendor called Userland that Robert Scoble uses to write his weblog.
The author reckons that among the barriers to adoption, "[u]sing weblogs means trusting your employees to speak honestly and openly". I think there is a stronger pre-requisite to that: it requires accepting the idea of speaking honestly and openly in public. If the management has a problem with that idea, then no matter how hard they try, they will never get anything out of corporate weblogs. It is also a pre-requisite for them to be able to explain the idea of corporate weblogs to their lawyers and keep them from killing what they will, in most cases, consider as a business risk.
But can they hold it forever? Scoble is particularly positive about the future of corporate weblogs:
Can managers stop worrying and learn to love the blog? As the payoff becomes apparent, more companies will open up. When one doesn't, its customers are going to want to know what the company is hiding.
Says Scoble of corporate blogging, "I think it's unstoppable."
Let's do a flashback to the bubble-era where, among the then-running hypes on how to survive the e-revolution and the 101 Dinosaur's Adaptation Rules to the E-Economy, was the absolute, urgent need to "build a community with our clients". As seen many times before, unreasonable amounts of time and money were spent in technologies that were supposed to sort that out. A few years later, we find ourselves with free (or ridiculously cheap) technologies that even dinosaurs could use, confronted with the ever embarrassing reality that no community can form without conversation, and that no conversation can be sustained if not based on honest and open speech.
Weblogs are particular in the sense that they allow to easily cut the fat out of content. If, after reading a few posts, you cannot get a feeling that the tone and content are right, then the weblog is probably not worth your time (or does not deserve to be called a weblog). In supporting weblogs, companies will not be able to skip what is my favorite question when I assess a web project: where is the beef?