I had the great pleasure of previewing one of Lilia Efimova's papers - maybe her PhD proposal - about five years ago. She writes about knowledge management and personal knowledge management and blogging, some of my favorite topics. And now I get the chance to do it again.
As she has been chronicling on her blog, she is near the end of writing this PhD. She asked me to have a look at the chapter that summarizes the blogging practices of knowledge workers, particularly looking at the questions she had about these practices going into her research. She interviewed a number of people who blog publicly in the broad knowledge management space, and she spent several of months embedded in Microsoft, interviewing and observing bloggers within that company at a time when corporate blogging was really getting established. She also draws on her own experience of blogging to inform her research. Here are some of Lilia's own summaries of this research overall and from this chapter.
So, why do knowledge workers use blogs? How do I use this blog? Even before this blog, I was a reader and participant on other blogs. I was gathering ideas and information from others who seemed to be excited about the field of knowledge management as me. Jim McGee's articulation of Thinking Out Loud was one of my first good explanations of the how and why of my own blogging. It was great for just getting ideas and thoughts into a written form. At the same time, I discovered that community of like-minded bloggers and readers were happy to welcome new voices. This community was a great staging place for these ideas. And we would often take up ideas and play with them, bouncing from blog to blog to comments to a wiki to email to a conference meeting and back into a blog. While it may be difficult to follow a fragmented community, blogs at least provide some concrete evidence and traces of the community members' interaction. These are all elements that Lilia discusses in her work.
Lilia also suggests another angle on blogging: that of supporting work and work activities. Blogging isn't particularly good tool for managing tasks, but it can be a useful tool in support of work - particularly when that work involves ideas, communication and interaction. I haven't been in a situation where this aspect of blogging has been very obvious. My blogging has been an avocation always. Always my opinions and ideas -- certainly informed by my work, but not required or acknowledged by it.
One big question has to do with the changing nature of blogging. It is no longer the "big thing" that it was when Lilia started her research. There are other ways to participate in the larger community. Does this change the answer to some of Lilia's questions? Or just the way in which knowledge workers decide to resolve those questions for themselves? I vote for the latter.
Note: I checked with Lilia before posting this, just to make sure I wasn't saying anything I shouldn't. As she has been blogging her entire thesis process, I didn't think there was anything hidden here that was awaiting formal approval from her committee.