Dave Snowden has been hinting at this article for the past week or so, but here it is. He lays out a fairly reasonable discussion around why blogs can be considered a knowledge management (more specifically, collaboration) tool in response to a comment from Hubert Saint-Onge. Snowden's post is Hubert's error:
As referenced earlier I was disturbed by a couple of comments by Hubert Saint-Onge at the end of his presentation when we were together in Dallas, to wit:
- That Blogs and Wikis are publishing tools not collaboration tools, and in the case of blogs the publishing is individualistic/egotistical.
- That an organisation should mandate one tool for collaboration, rather than allowing diversity; but that participation in the use of those tools should be voluntary.
I will just focus on the first point, though Snowden's full response is compelling. He lists half a dozen ways in which blogs can be collaborative / collaboration tools. Here are some of my reactions to these points.
- All publishing is individualistic / egotistical at some level, but that doesn't mean collaboration suffers. Without the published word in some form, it's rather difficult to have knowledge transfer and collaboration in the virtual world.
- Collaboration spaces allow feedback and discussion, and so does the blogosphere (evidence this post). Potentially, the blogosphere results in even more collaboration, as it is open to a wider audience than strictly the community. If the concern is around privacy, blogs can be made private or restricted as any internal collaboration space.
- "Blogs are conversations." The nature of linking to and discussing other people's writing is a form of collaboration. Similarly, if people find that a blogger has nothing to say, they tend to ignore that blogger.
- Blogs are intimate and "real" in a way that participating in a group forum is not (generally). Bloggers can get personal (egotistical?) because the space belongs to them, rather than being constrained by the norms of a collaboration space.
- Community comes from the links (see #5), rather than from explicit membership in a group. Snowden calls this a bottom-up approach to community. I am particularly fond of the "blog as front porch" analogy from Lilia Efimova (and others).
- [wikis work better than most collaboration spaces]
I have not read Hubert Saint-Onge recently, but I recall his talking about teams and projects within organizations and that there needs to be clear mandate for communities to make sense. I wonder if his concern that blogs appear to be too egotistical or individualistic stems from the model he has of how collaboration should work within organizations?
How do these arguments change if you are focused on internal blogging or blogging behind a firewall (dark blogs)? There is some loss of reach, if the blogs are restricted to be within the firm. Even a company as large as IBM only has ~100,000 employees, as opposed to the hundreds of millions of potential participants in blogging communities. But then, the firm has a natural community cohesion around the life of the company.
I see that Andy Roberts has also blogged this article.