Jim McGee and I did a session at BlawgThink on "Collaboration, KM, and the power of the virtual first impression." We presented a 2x2 matrix that we used to relate the traditional view of deliverable-as-value to a newer view where what is important is the combination of great process (interaction, collaboration) with great deliverables. However, I think we spent a little too much time talking about the knowledge management and knowledge work part of this discussion and lost it a bit on the collaboration and first impression bits. BlawgThink attendees got a copy of our mind map that includes pointers and topic ideas around each of these, but we just didn't have time to fill in all the blanks. One of the participants finally asked, "What does this have to do with blogs?" (Did anyone else see our train headed down the wrong track?) I think we recovered fairly well, but there were other things I would have loved to explore with the other BlawgThinkers. Fortunately, many of the topics that interest me came up again and again during the rest of BlawgThink.
So, how do blogs related to the topic of "Collaboration, KM, and the power of the virtual first impression?"
There is a first impression and a lasting impression. Blogs provide both. The first impression is what I get in my first visit to the blog or when an existing friend recommends them. The things that impress me are whether the writer is discussing things I care about (the topic list or "site map"), are the current articles interesting, who has recommended this blog, and do they offer a web feed ("syndication," RSS). I also glance at the design and may look at some old articles, if there is a topic of particular interest. But this is all about the first impression. I will build a lasting impression as I continue following the author's writing. (And if there is no web feed, there is a 1% chance I will come back to read more in the future.) A lasting impression is built around how well the writing engages me. Of course this is subjective, but there are millions of blogs out there and tens of millions of people reading them. Why should I read what does not connect with me. The lasting impression gives me a sense of the author's personality, and passion. This also gives me a good understanding of their expertise.
A theme repeated throughout the conference was that blogs provide a mechanism for people to get a feel for the writer that they cannot get from static website, brochures or the yellow pages. The need for traditional "courtship rituals" between potential partners drops dramatically. A number of people said that they've had clients come to them ready to do business, whereas traditional "off the street" clients needed to get a feel for how the interaction will proceed. And Marty Schwimmer reflected that blogging represented one of five or six social networks whereby he has found business. The ability to gain a deeper understanding of people in advance of meeting them was something we were trying to reflect in our 2x2 matrix. A blog can help expose a sense of how the interaction will proceed, rather than simply state that the result (deliverable) will be great.
The resulting collaboration, be it with a client or a business partner of some sort, can go many directions. But the ramp-up time can be shortened, and the connection between people should move to a deeper, more meaningful level. As conference co-organizer Matt Homann said in the kickoff, "Blogging is the introduction, this (the conference) is the conversation."