DURING 10 YEARS of reading blogs and through 5m page views on blogs and discussion boards I've edited or moderated, I've been asked for pointers about best practise for organisational blogging. Managers want to read effective blogging guidelines. At the outset, two problems often emerge. First, some people erroneously assume that companies can effectively impose a top-down blogging mentality on staff. It's as though they cannot trust their staff so management decides what needs to be said at the top and those at the bottom say it. That won't happen in the blogging world. Blogs rarely carry pipes of the same information. Blogs offer the plumbing for memes to percolate and ideas to emerge on the back of the process. Second, some people believe they can roll out a blogging solution and that everyone will jump aboard. Not likely--if my attempts at imposing blogging as a third level continuous assessment task are an indicator. Some people will only read blogs and they will never write them. Others will thumb through posts and make occasional comments. Still others will discount a paragraph of mainstream press if it's sourced on a blogger's opinion.
And there's more to consider.
Take Euan Semple's drumbeat for starters. Formerly the director of knowledge management for the BBC, Semple knew dozens of colleagues who were already romping around outside of the Beeb's firewall, exchanging messages and figuring out virtual communities on their own. If a company tries to throttle this behaviour, it loses any ability to comprehend the growth of electronic social networks and it will never be able to integrate into its own work practises the enthusiasm that exists in social media.
I like Semple's advice to companies just starting out with blogging tools. He suggests simply sticking in some low cost or free tools and then just getting out of the way. Actually, he points out the need to "keep the energy levels up" once a company starts blogging. That's not easy.
Sun Microsytems, a public company, asked its staff for some simple bullet statements that I wrote in a Moleskine several years ago. Sun's main points deserve consideration.
1. Remember, it's a two-way street. Expect comments.
2. Don't tell secrets.
3. Be interesting.
4. Write what you know.
5. Comply with financial rules and if you don't know them, stop now.
6. Quality matters. It's alright to be an occasional blogger.
7. Think about consequences.
There are many more corporate guidelines all over the internet. Several times annually, the Irish Internet Association offers blogging seminars. I rarely go because I don't like writing blogs about blogging and I don't like being a senior citizen among Irish bloggers. But I'm still blogging, as often with a mobile phone as with a laptop. I've received cease and desist warnings, irate phone calls and childish comments from anonymous visitors since starting regular blogging in 2001. I'm writing these words today because three different people have asked my advice about this topic during the past eight days. I have much more in my back catalogue, with some of the best snippets archived in 14 pages on del.icio.us. Those social bookmarks will help me write Ireland's first third level college course in social media where "Blogging Guidelines" will generate lively discussion online and in the classroom. Check back on Inside View in August for the course notes on the topic. Or listen to a conversation with IBM [19.1 MB 96 kbps MP3 file] about how Big Blue extended its lessons learned about blogging into success with podcasts.