A Frank Exchange of Clues

I’ve been painfully resisting the urge to leap in and fisk the living daylights out of most of the clueless “blogging, what is it good for?” diatribes that have popped up in the last few months.

Passionate personal prejudice requires me to recuse myself from launching into rebuttals that would almost certainly turn out to be as shrill and unbalanced as the worst of the blog-backlash flamebait.

Every now and then, however, a work so completely devoid of even the faintest demi-clue flips my snarky bit, and I simply cannot hold back the venom. Such a work is this truly remarkable post on the AlwaysOn “blog style product” (as CheezWhiz is to the dairy aisle, so AlwaysOn is to the blogosphere).

Let the fiskage commence...

Why smart companies don't use corporate weblogs.
Why would smart companies avoid adoption of the hottest internet trend to date
jesse tayler

-- Um... Microsoft, Macromedia, Edelman, Jupiter Media, IBM, Sun - these are dumb companies? And don't you need a question mark in your subhead there, "jesse"? Or are you being daringly modern?

Weblogs are the hottest trend in online publishing today. Their popularity just seems to grow without end. Recently, industry observers such as Technorati have been tracking close to one million article postings each day, and the number continues to climb.

-- Fair enough. So far so oatmeal...

Weblogs are a public broadcast-medium...

-- Woah there! "public broadcast-medium"? Um, no – they’re not. Perhaps they have that potential, but even the highest traffic bloggers would probably stop short of describing their medium as “broadcast”. A key part of the real appeal of blogs, in fact, is that they narrowcast to specific interest groups – communities of people with shared interests and ideas who are finding and connecting with each other online in ways they could never have done without the web. And what, pray, is that hyphen doing there?

...a medium which can effortlessly publish personal thoughts to innumerable viewers.

--“Innumerable”? Maybe. Potentially, perhaps. See above.

This simple medium has truly become a major source of periodical information, special interests and news. Weblogs are literally spawning millions of articles that compete for reader attention worldwide.

-- True. An uninspiring little filler paragraph with all the instructional value of wallpaper paste, but unarguably true.

So if joe down the street can break a news story just as fast as CBS, why are most corporations largely disinterested in adopting this new medium?

-- I'm guessing "joe" must be an uppercase-deprived cousin of yours...?

Weblog publishing is blind to the values and intentions of those very viewers it serves.

-- I'd love to fisk this point, but I have no idea what it means. Sounds good, though.

Public weblogs have very low accountability, and they return no information or insight back to the author about their audience.

-- Simply wrong. If a weblog has comments, trackbacks, a traffic logging feature and a contact email address (and without most of these features, one could argue, it really isn’t a weblog) – then the returns from the audience can be very high indeed.

And as many others have already commented, one of the key differences in the way bloggers work is: “When bloggers make mistakes, they correct them—faster and in a much more direct fashion than most mainstream media outlets”.

Accountability are us. Without accountability, you soon lose your credibility. And in this world, no credibility = no audience.

Authentic customer communication is hard to come by and the fact that weblogs do not gather information about the viewer means that weblogs are just another publishing vehicle that is no more valuable than the website maintained today.

-- Again: why assume blogs are unable to gather information about the viewer? This weblog has a publicly accessible SiteMeter (up there, in the top left corner). It gathers a great deal of information about my “viewers”. If I wanted more, I could easily require readers to create an email-validated account before they could post comments. Not a big fan of that approach, but it’s not unusual in blog circles. [UPDATE: Just occurred to me that jesse's own blog space at AlwaysOn has both a validated comments feature (i.e. you have to have an account to comment), and a "rate this post" widget. Two ways to gather information and feedback from your viewers right there, bucky.]

In short, corporations do not expend resources for weblogs because they simply do not return extra value or information from the investment.

-- By what measure? How are you calculating "extra value" or ROI here? In my experience, and the experience of every corporate blogger I’ve spoken to, blogs accrue extraordinary extra value to the companies using them – they extend the company’s reach, solicit real customer dialogue, engage an audience in ways not possible with other marketing tactics, and can have a significant positive impact on the reputation capital of the organization. Ask Robert Scoble, Microsoft’s superstar geek blogger, what extra value his blog has returned to the company. Better yet, ask his boss. In short, corporations expend resources on weblogs because they return tangible value and information from the investment.

Blogworking realizes the business potential in corporate weblogs.

-- Quoi?

Blogworking is a combination of social and business networking within a like minded community, by way of weblog publishing. Blogworking allows members to authentically communicate their ideas in a fun and safe way, while establishing themselves as active enthusiasts or thought leaders within that community. This addition compliments traditional weblogs by combining authorship, content and information with accountability, authenticity and visibility.

-- Sorry? This is different from regular blogging how, exactly? That last paragraph reads like a pretty good description of some of the principal benefits of plain vanilla blogging, if you ask me. I’m missing the relevance of adding the “working” suffix. Oh, and "fun and safe" makes my teeth feel furry, but we won’t dwell on that. So what's this marvellous new "blogworking" thingy? I'm all ears...

Blogworking, takes traditional weblog publishing and adds highly specialized business and social networking features. These special features, and the context they create, is what brings authentic customer visibility straight up through the enterprise and into the executive office.

-- Great! What the hell is it and where can I get one?

Companies can now manage public relations directly, and using Blogworking, even smaller organizations can expect financial return and business savings from their online investment.

-- How, goddammit? In what specific ways is this “blogworking” bollocks any different from regular blogging? Rewrite that last sentence with the unmodified “blogging” in place of your rather limp buzz coinage “blogworking” - the delta 'twixt the two is lost on me. Oh, and your comma placement is appalling. Buy a copy of Strunk & White, fercrissakes.

In the future, smart companies will continue to avoid traditional weblog publishing, while at the same time, smart companies will to continue to see the financial and customer relations incentives offered by true blogworking.

-- I really have no idea what you’re blathering on about here. Sorry. You’ve completely lost me. If you’d made any kind of half-arsed effort to actually define this spiffy next-generation “blogworking” trope, we might be able to figure out if there’s any substance to your contention that “traditional weblog publishing” is headed down the bog.


And that's it. Just as he seems to be warming up to his subject, he stops. Rhetoricus interruptus.

I think Frank Paynter’s analysis of the many, many problems with this piece is probably the most accurate. Over to you, Frank:

Rather than muddle around in the narrative tangle that might tie the misrepresentations at each end of the narrative arc together, the author makes the better choice of leaving out the middle. Now, if his editor can get him to work on leaving off those beginnings and endings...


[UPDATE: 5 June, 2005 - an email from Constantin Basturea and a comment from a reader of this post succeed in lighting the blue touchpaper again. The fisk continues, over here...]