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Corporate blogs and fear of the boss

Scott Rosenberg writes about the future of corporate blogging. Here’s an excerpt:

I’m sorry to be the pessimist at the party. But for large numbers of workers in America, particularly those at big companies, the dominant fact of life remains don’t piss off your boss. And, in an era of health-insurance lock-in and easy outsourcing and offshoring, many U.S. workers remain doubtful that they can simply waltz into a new job should their activities displease the current hierarchy to which they report. So the odds of them feeling at ease publishing honest Web sites about their work lives are extremely poor. The blogs you’re going to see from within most traditional companies will be either uninformative snoozes or desperate attempts at butt-covering and -kissing. Not because people don’t have great stories to tell — but because telling the truth has too high a cost.

I do agree that it’ll take a long time for corporate public blogging to spread beyond easy industries, such as high tech. But, I think it’ll happen faster than Scott does. First, internal blogging will happen relatively quickly because it’s a great way for employees to build their reputations, a motive as powerful as the urge not to piss off your boss. Those internal blogs will go onto the extranet and eventually some will make it onto the Internet.

Second, the first public blogs we’re likely to see outside of the sw industry will be more like the Dean blog than anything else: They’ll be always upbeat but still lively, full of voice, and worth reading by enthusiasts.

[Note: I have never been right with a single prediction.]

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14 Responses to “Corporate blogs and fear of the boss”

  1. Weinberger on Blogging in Corporations

    On JOHO, a bit of  a pushback to Scott Rosenberg’s dismal forecast:
    I do agree that it’ll take a long …

  2. Fascinating issue, IMO. The uses and advantages are clear, the challenges to traditional power and control are the obvious botlenecks.

    That being said, organizations pay tens and sometimes hunders of thousands of bucks to consultants to help develop “leadership” and more flexible and responsive cultures – sometimes in the guise of improving communications skills and “authenticity” (a buzzword in the leaedrship development arena.

    I’d suggest that developing a network of internal blogs, well moderated (a la Cliff Figallo, Lisa Kimball, Howard Rheingold and many other effective online facilitators of community) would go a long way to achieving the same objectives whilst also recognizing and beginning to adapt to the conditions of interconnectedness that are now with us for good.

    I’d also use the same argument with companies who are seeking to let the customer lead, or who want to bring the customer closer to inside the company.

    As with blogs, goofy commentary and dysfunctional challenges to legitimate power and control inside the organization are IMO likely to be dealt with effectively by the self-regulating dynamics observable on some of the more established and mature blogs.

  3. Take as a case in point the new book from the interior of the CIA. It’s published anonymously with the approval of the CIA. It is clearly in their interest to get a dissenting viewpoint into the public dialogue; so, they’ve seized on the opportunity to do so via an internal dissenter.

    As corporations become the true world powers, you may well see this sort of politicking become the norm.

  4. What do you mean by “the first public blogs we’re likely to see outside of the sw industry”?

    There are plenty of non-software industry weblogs. LiveJournal, for example, hosts weblogs for almost two million active users. Many of them aren’t in software. In fact, in certain age and interest groups, the question isn’t “Do you have a weblog?” but “What’s your LiveJournal?”

  5. Chris, in context I meant the first public blogs on corporate sites. Sorry for the confusion.

  6. There’s also the sheer numbers of it.

    Different people say 2 years; some say five years.

    I think it’s a lot longer than that. Let’s just do the math:

    The Economic Census of the United States says that there are 6.4 million companies with 101.3 million employees (this doesn’t include people who work for nonprofits, state, local, and federal government, or the military – and that would up the number considerably).

    If we wanted to get only 10% of all companies to have a weblog in a year, we’d have to start 1,757 company blogs every day. If we wanted 10% of all employees of those companies to have a blog, we’d need to start 27,773 blogs every day.

    There are only 24 hours in a day. It’s going to be a long process.

    But I think your essential point is correct: people who blog — especially those who blog right out in the open under their own name — are generally people who for one reason or another have few people to answer to, professionally speaking. They’re CEOs (Alan Meckler), people with ownership stakes in where they work, or are self-employed (Jeff Jarvis, Jerry Colonna, Halley Suitt, etc).

    Others will blog anonymously. To bring two points together that you’ve been discussing recently, the fact that people lower on the totem pole are less likely to blog, or if they do blog, blog anonymously, might be one reason that blogs written by women are less visible.

    There are fewer women CEOs, heads of businesses, tenured faculty etc. As a result more of them may be blogging anonymously. And since blogging anonymously is still pretty insecure — that is, if someone who knows you finds your blog, they’re likely able to guess who you are — they also don’t link to each other or encourage others to link to them. Hence less Technorati and Google juice for the anonymous blogger.

  7. CorporBlogs

    I do entirely agree on CorpoBlogging:The blogs you’re going to see from within most traditional companies will be either uninformative…

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    Asynkron webkommunikation: Medarbejderblogs – paranoia eller virkelighed? Andreas med nogle gode pointer. Og Mygdal med præciserende kommentar. “De basale retningslinjer” for medarbejderblogs skal sikkert bare skrues sammen med virksomhedens generelle …

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    I’ve been thinking about evangelistic blogging. I’m passionate about agile software development. I think it could be extended further into the marketing realm (during the preconception – or requirements gathering – and distribution/delivery phase of a …

  10. Right now there are more than 15,000 weblogs created every day. ( 27,000 doesn’t seem like such a large number in comparison.

  11. Blogging for the boss

    A few weeks ago there was a spate of blog posts about bloggers and their bosses that I have bookmarked and only now got round to posting here. This is an issue that we will encounter on our mission to…

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