Why blogs could be bad for business

While blogging’s earliest advocates operate on the “information wants to be free” principle, many businesses would shudder at the very thought. | “Information is power” is a more likely mantra in many organisations. Whenever you hear those three words, you’re hearing the signal of the kind of closed information culture where there’s also a heads-down, bunker mentality utterly unsuited to the openness required for a convincing weblog, be it an external PR effort, or knowledge-sharing internal one. —Neil McIntosh
Why blogs could be bad for business (Guardian)

A few months ago, I was at a fancy on-campus dinner event. The university president, JoAnne Boyle, was working her way through the crowd, laying on the charm. I was part of a little group of people who were treated to a funny story about a well-known donor who called with some crotchety advice about one of the big topics on campus. When we all finished laughing at the punch line, I asked for the donor’s first name again, because I hadn’t caught it, and someone kidded me, “So, is this for your blog?” We all chuckled, but JoAnne’s face turned white, and she quickly went off to charm someone else.

A little while later, as she was giving an impromptu welcome speech, she noticed who I was sitting with, and said, “The reporter who’s the bane of my existence is sitting next to the faculty member who’s the bane of my existence!”

Everyone turned around to see me recovering from what was almost a spit-take.

I don’t think of my own blog in terms of power… goodness gracious, I’m just trying to teach a few things and enjoy doing what I do. I noticed that Alexa, a website ranking service, has placed jerz.setonhill.edu above www.setonhill.edu, and has recently replaced the screen capture of Seton Hill’s home page with a screen capture from my own curricular home page. (My curricular website gets 57% of the traffic to the *.setonhill.edu domain, and the main site gets 29%, at least according to however Alexa measures it. The blogs.setonhill.edu subdomain gets 12%, by the way, which is up from 8% the last time I checked.)

I don’t really know what any of this means, but, like businesses, universities also operate with a rigid power structure; administrators know things that faculty members don’t need to know; tenured faculty members know things that their nontenured colleagues don’t need to know.

Since I know that some of my students read my blog, I’ve found myself screening my blogging, since I don’t want my blog to give away the “big twist” I want to throw into my lecture. And one day last term when I was very sick, a student blogged about how mentally befuddled I was. That student wrote sympathetically, but what if she hadn’t?

Many of the students who started blogging for me last semester will be blogging for me again in different classes this term. I’ve learned a few things about instructional blogging… for one thing, I need to get the students reading each other’s blogs more. We spent perhaps too much time counting the number of comments each blog entry generated, and not enough time getting students to link to each other’s conversations. I’ll be introducing three classes to blogging this week, and I plan to move pretty quickly from the basic “show me that you can post a link” to writing thickly-linked texts, with well-chosen links that not only demonstrate the student is keeping up with other blogs, but that gives readers a map to good reading online. We’ll see what happens.

The entrenched business culture may not adopt blogging beyond the basic public relations and customer service approach. But a university’s function is to educate — to pass on skills and knowledge, by giving students the intellectual tools, in a microcosm of the society that awaits them after they graduate. Progressive educational philosophy emphasizes empowering the student. A weblog forces students to come into contact with that outside world a little earlier, which can be a burden. But with that responsibility comes power.

I’d rather the university president not think of me as the bane of her existence because of my blog, but at the same time, it’s nice to be noticed.