by Maish Nichani
Maish puts his diverse set of knowledge in instructional design, online learning and media production to set the tone and direction for elearningpost
Weblogs. They are everywhere. This humble publishing technology is proving to be the silent killer application of this decade. In this article I’ll define what weblogs are and explore the malleable attributes that make them so remarkably flexible under various contexts.
A Weblog, or blog is quite simply a journal kept on the web. For example, consider Dina Mehta’s weblog Conversations with Dina . (Please go to her weblog and explore for a while before reading on). Here are some characteristics of her weblog:
· It is kept by an individual (the weblogger) – in this case, Dina Mehta
· It concerns a domain area – for Dina this is quite vast, from knowledge management to qualitative research perspectives to creativity issues
· Each post contains her opinions and commentary on an issue (usually a current issue represented by a link to that issue)
· It is updated almost daily
· It is public (readers can even post comments on each post. See under Comments in Dina’s blog)
Is that it? Well, that’s all there is to a blog. At this point, you might be thinking of the overall purpose of keeping a blog. Why do it? What are the benefits? Here’s a list that will help dispel some of your doubts. Note that all three parties involved in blogging: the blogger, the reader and the community benefit from this activity.
· Benefits to the community.
By giving her personal voice to an issue in her domain, Dina is not only clarifying issues for herself by writing about it, but is also sharing her expertise so that others interested in her domain (her readers) can benefit. Note that here, it is assumed that Dina has gained a reputation to be knowledgeable in her field and that her opinions do matter. In such a case, if Dina did not share her expertise and thoughts on such issues then it would be a loss to many in her community. Consider the loss if those thousands of bloggers like Dina out there stopped sharing their experiences and insights into their domains. (Btw, Dina shares her list of bloggers in her domain under “Blogs I Enjoy”. This practice of listing blogs one frequents is called “blogrolling”. Now if you were interested in Dina’s domain, imagine the wealth of knowledge that lies in her blogroll – her community of bloggers.)
· Benefit to readers.
Dina’s readers benefit by keeping abreast of the latest thinking, developments and people in her domain, which in most cases is the reader’s domain too. They used to do this by visiting her website everyday. But no longer. Using a technology called RSS (Real Simple Syndication) readers now download a desktop application (usually free) called a Newsreader and subscribe to Dina’s and other blogger’s RSS feeds. Here’s a list of some newsreader applications. This way readers can keep abreast of their blogging community (hundreds of bloggers) without actually going to each individual website. So now, the newsreader has become the gateway to the entire blog knowledge. It is my strong conviction, and I say this to all new blog readers, that if you want to become knowledgeable in a particular domain, subscribe to the blogging community of that domain for six months and you will be.
· Benefits to Dina:
By maintaining a blog, Dina not only keeps abreast of the latest thinking, development and people in her domain, but also develops a shared understanding of the domain with the inputs from other practitioners. This way, the blog is helping her to think new solutions, experiment with different techniques and understand new theory. Keeping the blog is also helped her to bag some clients who came to know her through her blog. It has also given her opportunities to meet experts in her field, this time face-to-face. I know all this simply because Dina writes about this in her blog. So you see, she is realizing these benefits simply because of being passionate about blogging and on learning.
As mentioned earlier, blogging is pervading all sectors; it has even made its way into businesses. Recently, a competition was held to get the best corporate weblogging elevator pitch. Read this through and think about its implications for your business:
First, think about the value of the Wall Street Journal to business leaders. The value it provides is context — the Journal allows readers to see themselves in the context of the financial world each day, which enables more informed decision making.
With this in mind, think about your company as a microcosm of the financial world. Can your employees see themselves in the context of the whole company? Would more informed decisions be made if employees and leaders had access to internal news sources?
Weblogs serve this need. By making internal websites simple to update, weblogs allow individuals and teams to maintain online journals that chronicle projects inside the company. These professional journals make it easy to produce and access internal news, providing context to the company — context that can profoundly affect decision-making. In this way, weblogs allow employees and leaders to make more informed decisions through increasing their awareness of internal news and events.
Blogs are also used in knowledge management. This is not surprising as blogs provide rich knowledge exchanges. I won’t go into this in detail as I’ve already written about this in an earlier (2001) article on Grassroots KM Through Blogging .
Blogs are also used in project management. This is because of the chronological and narrative rich aspects of a blog lends itself very nicely into managing a project the “real” way not the sanitized or cleansed way MS-Project would have you do it. For more on this, read Michael Schrage’s The Virtues of Chit Chat column for CIO magazine.
To conclude, I would say that all this blogging stuff is like sex. You just have to do it to get it. So here, start exploring. There is a website called Technorati which searches blogs. So if you’re interested in something, enter your domain keywords and check out the blogs that have been talking about it. You may want to download a newsreader of your choice and subscribe to the RSS feeds for those blogs that you find interesting. You can always check out their blogroll to find out more blogs.
Btw, if I may add a shameless pitch, my blog elearningpost is also a decent place to start. My domain is e-learning, knowledge management and information design.
So see you there. See you around. Welcome to the blogging world.
· History of weblogs
· Typepad (A simple hosted weblog application. Free.)
· Blogger (The initial free blogging application, now under Google)
· KM blogs
· A Scan of Headline Scanners (to know more about newsreaders)
Maish is the weblogger of www.elearningpost.com