Thursday, 15 October 2009

Sociology of SharePoint 101: Blog Bling

Blogs are light weight web content publishing.

If you have critical information to share with your organisation that must be right, use Web Content Management tools. By the way SharePoint is kind of weak on WCM side of things so you may even consider not communicating in mass with SharePoint at all. SharePoint is best at collaboration.

But if you have a number of people or teams you want to allow to quickly communicate to the greater community without the requirements of of full WCM than a blog is an excellent tool. Example cases where a SharePoint blog is a useful tool:
  • Status updates for IT to the rest of the company
  • Feedback from ongoing events in real time
  • Sharing knowledge of an expert
  • Keeping status information on the Intranet (microblogging)
SharePoint has a expansion kit that just about everyone installs.

But there are problems with blogging as a tool in your office. The push back I get mostly is "we don't want people to waste their time blogging." And that is actually very good push back.

Look at the side of this blog, or almost any blog, and you will notice that I have added tonnes of bling bling. I have added mashups, blog rolls, links, Flickr graphic feeds, RSS feeds, etc.

And bloggers generally form in to communities where they exchange kudos and fight it out for status. I roughly know where my Second Life blog now ranks in all Second Life blogs. I check constantly my hit rates, where my hits are coming from, and when one of my blogs once made the top 100,000 in technorati I could not focus on anything else for a while.

The problem is the the medium becomes the message, that blogging as a social activity stresses the status of its author so much that it could lead to the following negatives:

  • Information created to gain attention rather than be accurate,
  • Large amounts of time wasted on adding features to blog that add no benefit,
  • Competition between bloggers for status.

What to do about it? Well Blogs are just too useful (unlike Wikis) to decide not to use at all. In a large company with lots of people and departments with messages to publish nothing beats a blog. Just using WCM involves too much effort and using email will further harm already stressed email usage.

I would suggest that an organisation set up a simple set of practice for all bloggers. These would include keeping blog minimal, posting only significant data, and not tracking hit rates.

It might seem silly but I find that just knowing how many people visit your what ever it is leads to obsessive economies on the Internet. On Flickr people get view counts and make contacts, so there is intense rivalry between users on these. In Wikipedia people are judged for number of contributions. Facebook people show off their friend lists with pride.

And this is the core problem, Internet technology tends to promote quantity over quality. Its up to your and your companies culture to promote quality. The tools themselves won't do that, certainly not SharePoint which though useful is far from an ideal ECM.