Thursday, July 22, 2004

Viva la Blog!

"Bloggers are navel-gazers. And they're about as interesting as friends who make you look at their scrap books."

Elizabeth Osder
Visiting professor, School of Journalism
University of Southern California

Hurrah for the Weblog, otherwise known as the blog! Online is where I can freely say anything about virtually everything while hiding comfortably behind a monitor and even a pseudonym if I so desire! If my opinions are highly biased and bigoted, and perhaps even likely to spark riots somewhere, all the more people will read them and keep coming back for more!

Sound self-indulgent to you? Absolutely.

A frivolous and pointless pursuit? Think twice before you dismiss 'em boring blogs, buddy.

Power to the Bloggers!

Of course, not everyone cares to read about the daily events in the uninteresting lives of common folk. So why read Weblogs? Because of their scintillating and highly scandalizing contents! After all, if I want comprehensive and objective reports on world happenings, I'd read the news. If I want qualified expert opinions on complex subjects, I'd read editorials. Now if I want some quality bitching that can't be found in the media, where'd I go?

The humble Weblog first demonstrated its insidious power in journalism and politics. Bloggers were the ones who brought about the fall of Republican Senator Trent Lott by making the press notice Lott's racist remarks that were earlier overlooked and more significantly, pack journalism at work.

During the height of the Iraq war, Christopher Allbritton, a freelance journalist, solicited more than $14,000 in donations from his Weblog readers to fund his trip to Iraq and launch Back to Iraq.

America's Democratic Party not only joined in the fray with the Weblog as another tool in their campaigning arsenal, but also invited bloggers to attend the Democratic National Convention happening in 3 days' time. To be fair, that's 30 bloggers out of some 35,000 delegates.

What initially began as an subculture of Internet users sharing links and personal comments within their online community has grown into a phenomenon referred to as the Blogosphere where bloggers are heavily interconnected through reading, referencing and commenting on each other's Weblogs. Collectively, bloggers can pack a mean punch. Where once readers were confined to coffee shop banter and the occasional formal letter written to the press, readers today are able to engage actively in scrutinizing and criticizing journalists' works.

While the ability to express oneself, unbridled by censorship or the journalist's code of ethics, makes blogging extremely attractive, the ease of online publishing through blogging software is just as crucial in bringing about this trend. After all, it really helps that we don't need a degree in computer science to setup and maintain a blog.

Fact: Only 11% of Web surfers visit blogs.
Fact: Only 10% of American bloggers update their blogs daily.

Weblogs are also being promoted as an educational tool that essentially engages students beyond the classroom by empowering them to take charge of the content of their Weblogs. At the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Communication, the Weblog has been used as a teaching tool since 1999 to sharpen the news reporting skills of aspiring journalists.

Even attorneys like Ernest E. Svenson have hopped on the blogging wagon as he continues "searching for truth and justice (in an unjust world)". Incidentally, according to the Infotech Update article I read, Ernie the Attorney is 4 times more linked than the top five law firm Web sites.

Moral of the story? Better not piss off a blogger though or else not only other friends but the whole world will know about your evil deeds. But bloggers beware; take free speech too far and you'll lose your job, as did Steve Olafson, then a reporter with The Houston Chronicle, whose political comments cost him.

Businesses were next to feel the impact of Weblogs, so deeply that BlogOn 2004 - the very first conference focusing on the business of social media - was just held last week.

The ability of Weblogs to facilitate informal communication and the sharing of information and knowledge have inevitably make them ideal communication tools in the arena of knowledge management and online content management. Weblog vendors, such as Traction Software, are tweaking their software to enable the further use of the Weblog as a collaboration tool in enterprises.

Weblogs are also being mined for their marketing value - the latest marketing concept being viral marketing or word-of-mouth marketing where companies try to create amongst people a buzz about their products so that these people spread the information on the companies' behalf. Go figure how this works in the ultra-linked Blogosphere.

The important points to remember here as you try to sell the features of blogging to your boss: easy publishing and efficient distribution of information. Perfect for busy people with good ideas to share or quality bitching to partake of.

But like a double-edged sword, blogging employees can work both for and against their companies and true to this, top Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble speaks freely about his employer's products. Even Six Apart, a Weblog vendor, was subject to scathing critisms from bloggers using its very own blogging technology.

Up Next?

Moblog, short for Mobile Blogging, refers to blogging via pda's and mobile phones while on the go. Moblogs have been around for about 2 years now but we haven't seen any radical impact yet. At least now you can follow your favourite celebrity (such as Jamie Oliver) around through the virtual window opened into his or her life.

Perhaps the most interesting use of the moblog was by Joi Ito and his virtual organization. Once Ito simultaneously moblogged during a conference in order to facilitate Q&A for some 110 of his blog readers around the world.

Locally, we have Singapore's 1st Moblog as part of this year's National Day celebrations (if following the lives of local celebs is considered celebrating) and the world's 1st moblog reality show both organized by Singtel. Pretty frivolous, if you ask me, but definitely another marketing tool to be exploited.

A "blogs on steroids" service called Amplify touts its ability to allow users to collate information on the Web and create customized pages. Though there's nothing particularly innovative about this service, the convenience of managing less windows on my desktop does sound geekily appealing.

On the flip side, many have lamented the recent decline of interest in literature, both reading and writing, while the trend of blogging and fisking continues to rise. But frankly, I'd rather be where the action is.

So what do all these mean for the rest of us? Keep on blogging!

More Interesting Links

1 comment:

Lemming said...

Everybodyshouldblog me thinks....well at least everybody important (in our lives)?