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How might a corporation use blogs?
Create a blog central, which might be company.com/blogcentral. On that Web page can be a list of the blogs of the experts or the representatives of those experts organized by subjects important to the companymetallurgy and Linux and CRM and so forth. They might find relevant information or links to other resources they didn't know about. And, sure, you might have found it on Google, but you might not have, because the relationship between the problem you're working on and the Web page that's got the answer wasn't obvious.
Some have asked whether there's a role for customers, and there probably is a role for both intranet and extranet blogging. But I think there's a danger that companies might try to invoke some rules to try to edit them, overregulate, overcontrol or sanitize them. Imagine how unread something would be, for example, if Bill Jones, the vice president of consumer safety, writes a blog on something that admonishes people to be careful about something. First, it's corporate-speak more often than not, and second, everybody knows Bill Jones can't find the on-off button on his laptop, so you know there's no way he actually wrote the stuff himself. Blogs, to be credible, must not be overcontrolled, public relations documents. They're best if they're from the grassroots of the organization.
How do blogs work technically?
When you post a blog on the Web, an RSS feed is created. Now, unfortunately, this is an ugly technical name like so many profound things, you know, like XML. The technical community, I always say, is great at thinking through how stuff is going to work but they're lousy at naming it. RSS, in fact, stands for Really Simple Syndication. It's a syndication protocol, and what that means is when you write something, a table of contents is created of everything you're ever written in this blog, like the cover of Reader's Digest. Here are all of the latest things that appear from this blog on this subject area.
The RSS feed works just like that. It's a table of contents of everything ever written in this blog, and it's tagged in XML. The tags represent a date, author, subject, category, title. We all know a browser is a program that allows you to read Web pages. Similarly, a blog reader is a program that allows you to read weblogs. It's a specialized piece of software. You don't have to have that piece of software to have a blog, but if you have this specialized reader, it allows for blogs in your laptop to get updated automatically. So you take the address of the RSS feed off my weblog, for example, and you put it into your weblog reader, and now you have unilaterally subscribed to my weblog. There's a very subtle but powerful aspect of this. You don't have to fill out any profile, you don't have to ask my permission. You can just do this. So now every time I write something, your blog reader is automatically updated periodically over the Internet. So you always have the latest information from my blog right there in the reader. And this reader doesn't just get the latest stuff from my blog, but also from other blogs you're tapping into. This information is continuously updated. It's up to you to choose which information you want to be refreshed, and how often.
There are two ways you can be a blogger. One, you can set it up on your own server and there is a lot of software you can use for this. Radio UserLand is very popular. Six Apart is quite popular. It has a product called Movable Type and this company claims it's the leading blogging software provider for corporate blogging applications. Movable Type, for example, works with MySQL or DB2 or Oracle or any relational database. It's not computer-intensive, obviously. It's mostly text. Second, CIOs don't have to host blogs themselves, and instead can use a service, like blogger.com. Six Apart has just launched a new service called TypePad.
Now, multimedia is certainly possible here, and there are a lot of ideas growing up around blogging like audblog. Audblog is audio. You can call a phone number and dictate something, say, and when you hang up, it shows up on your weblog. Somebody goes to your weblog, they click on this little audblog icon, and can hear that dictation. If people start putting movies and music on blogs, then you can hear and see something in multimedia as part of a blog.
Where do you see the blogging movement going in the next three-to-five years?
I think we'll see blogging become the first derivative of the Web. It takes the Web to a higher level. It allows for more effective communications and sharing of information in a very structured way. So it will enable millions of people to infuse their points of view into the knowledge stream, a kind of massive enrichment of knowledge. Sure, there will always be wackos and dumb blogs, just as there are wackos and dumb Web sites and dumb forms of media now. I think, though, that given the personal nature of blogs, they could be a bit destabilizing and disruptive, but that will be a good thing. The Internet has changed the world for the good. Sure, we also have security problems and hackers and spam and so forth, but to get rid of them, would we give up the global communications mechanism that allows for sharing of information? I don't think so.