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CIO Insight: Bloggers reframe the news for different audiences and ensure that new voices have a chance to be heard. What's your take on the significance of weblogs, both to society and to business?

John Patrick: I think this blog phenomenon is one of those things that comes along every decade or so and gets completely underestimated by just about everybody. It's very much like what's going on with Wi-Fi now, and very much what happened with the Web ten years ago. Blogs are a whole new Internet channel, yet another example of how the Internet has made it possible for new ideas to come along and change the status quo. I think a lot of times people see something come along and they say, "What's the big deal? We had that in 1972,"—like knowledge management or artificial intelligence. When instant messaging started, a lot of people said, "oh, this is no biggie. We had this on the mainframe in the 1960s." It's true—we did. But what makes IM different is that now we have the Internet—the widespread sharing of information. That allows for collaboration, it allows for a global effort. So it spawns many more ideas, it allows a new thought to take off like wildfire.

I like to think of blogging as a new way to communicate. And there are many ways to think about this. Some people like to say this enables everybody to be a publisher. In fact, a lot of people said that about the Web back in 1994 and 1995—that it's a document-publishing phenomenon and that now, everybody can publish. In theory, that was true—but only if you knew HTML and if you knew how to set up a Web server and a lot of other ifs. What's new with blogging is that anybody can do it.

Why is this a big deal for business?

There is no question in my mind that blogging is already beginning to reshape how information is created, published and shared. Blogs have the power to introduce new voices into the mix, which will enrich the quality of information available. Voices not necessarily heard before, thanks to limitations of money, access or hierarchy—you're not the CEO, you're just a guy with a big idea—now you can bridge those gaps. Say you're a CIO who wants to develop some thought leadership around the need to rethink the company's approach to mobile workforce strategies. Blogs can give you access to the grassroots and to your peers that you might not otherwise have had.

In the mid-1990s, some businesses embraced the Internet quickly while others waited to see where it would lead. Some, like the music industry, still seem to be waiting. Blogging is at that same early stage. Some will embrace it and others will wait and some will wait too long. There are millions of people who are experts at certain things, have a point of view and are good communicators. They are not journalists in the traditional sense, but they will create large amounts of information that will be syndicated around the world. People will no longer just do a Google search to find information on a topic. Instead, they will search the blogsphere to find out what those in the know are currently thinking and writing on a topic.

Right now, there's an immediate negative reaction to blogs by CIOs because they're viewed as simply adding more to the in-box.

Your own blog entry for June 20, 2003, entitled "Time for Blogging," says you met with some CIOs and they were all familiar with Wi-Fi but not one had heard of blogging.

It's not surprising. They're all getting budget pressure. They've got huge security issues. They've got skills issues. And they've got strategic pressures from the lines of business and the CEOs pushing them to do more with less. So they don't have time to keep up with what's going on outside, much less to consider the implications.

This article was originally published on 11-01-2003
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