I’ve encountered two instances this week where people dug in their heels and refused to even think about blogging as a communications medium.
#1: A Michigan friend of mine has been struggling with web development for years while trying to build a site to document his sailing travels. He wants a simple site – the history of the boat, a trip log, places he’s been, a guestbook, that kind of thing. He needs to be able to update the site from anywhere, via dialup or other slow connections. He’s tech-savvy enough that he bought an iPod and a USB hard drive on his own, but he doesn’t do computer work for a living or anything.
To me, that has “blog” written all over it. However, every time I try to show him blog tools, he gets hung up on the presentation quality. Blogs are not the most gorgeous web sites in terms of visual quality, and he wants something with a ton of photos with very specific layouts. So he continues to slog along with programs like FrontPage. He’s going to end up with a static, non-interactive site that doesn’t encourage visitors to keep coming back.
Worse, the site’s going to be tough to keep up-to-date, so he won’t want to keep posting frequent news. People who try to do date-based sites with FrontPage don’t do enough planning initially, so they keep creating new date pages with save-as, and they don’t have easy links between pages. Adding new months or trips becomes a big pain in the butt, and users have to manually update their links all over the place. End result: a site that’s rarely updated, especially as opposed to how easy it is to update a blog. I can update my blog simply by sending a text message from my phone or sending a picture from my phone.
#2: one of my coworkers is looking for ways to disseminate information across the organization. Different people want updates in different ways, and he wants to encourage a group conversation between employees to foster knowledge sharing and growth. Right now, we get information updates via email. When people share their opinion, they’re using reply-to-all. This kind of thing makes me cringe because it alienates people who might otherwise be genuinely interested in the discussion. Like me – I’d rather have this kind of “FYI” info segregated into a separate area where I can examine it at my leisure, as opposed to being shot straight into my email-equipped phone to alert me instantly. (No, I don’t have a properly email-equipped phone yet, but I’m working on that, hahaha.)
This also cries out for a blog. People could subscribe via email, via their RSS reader, or we could start a web-based blog aggregator a la Microsoft Channel 9 or Macromedia NA. Not all blog entries have to be public – they can set up different templates so that some blog categories are public, and some are internal-only.
I haven’t gotten a response back from that coworker, but the time lag suggests that if I haven’t gotten one by now, it’s probably not going to happen.
Why are these two guys alienated by the term “blog”? The friend says blogs have too much information, and that tells me that the “blog” term is too associated with the MySpace type of personal journal – or for that matter, this here blog of mine. But it doesn’t have to be that way: I use my separate survey blog to talk about news and issues in the survey industry, and you’ll never catch any personal stories in that site because it’s not appropriate. I build the site with a blogging tool simply because it’s the best way to build a site quickly, reliably, and with a load of features. I don’t have to worry about things like RSS feeds or building a comment system – it’s all already in there, ready to go.
Saying you don’t like blogs because they’re too personal is like saying you don’t buy DVDs because they’ve got too much porn. Sure, there are adult stores that sell adult DVD’s, but that doesn’t mean all DVDs are dirty. Sure, there are boring personal blogs, but not all blogs have anything to do with personal lives. I subscribe to several dozen blogs, and only a handful are even remotely personal. The rest are strictly business.
Podcasting, on the other hand – man, that’s still 99% noise and 1% signal.