As a postscript to the previous story, have a look at this article on using blogs in software development. Among others, Mitch Kapor of Lotus 1-2-3 fame is using blogs to get input not only from developers but also users. This is an example of the concept of distributed innovation I write about in Living Networks. One of my favorite illustrations of this is IBM’s alphaWorks unit, that makes early-development code fresh from its R&D labs available for all-comers in order to get their input into the development process. Both of these can be considered commercial variations on the open source software model. They provide a framework to allow varied and distributed input into the development process. Blogs are just one tool that can enable this kind of process.
There’s a good article on the business of blogging in the Guardian. AOL will offer blogging to its users, which is just part of the process of making this truly mainstream. Every time I speak I ask how many people have heard of blogs. For most audiences – even ones that you think would be well familiar with the idea – it’s well less than half. I’m doing my bit in my media and speaking to spread the word. To repeat what I’ve written before, the single most important aspect of blogs is that they enable collaborative filtering, in which the most useful and relevant information emerges from the information universe in which we live.
The Guardian article also talks about how Andrew Sullivan scored $79,000…
…from his readers in his “pledge week”, and how BlogAds is enabling bloggers to make money from ads. This is too much like dot-com thinking. Only a handful will make more than enough to buy a round of beers.
Earlier in the week, when I was making an in-house presentation at a large financial services firm, someone asked whether blogs could be used for collaboration and knowledge sharing. Yes, indeed, K-logs (knowledge logs) are being used as a knowledge management tool by firms like Verizon. (see for example this list of K-log links and Business 2.0’s Blogging for Dollars). However the culture in the organization needs to be right for this to work. This would fall flat in its face in many companies; a knowledge culture would need to be reasonably well developed for k-logs to work well.
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I’m at the Information Online conference in Sydney, where I gave a keynote this morning. The conference is primarily populated by librarians. In sitting in on some of the sessions and speaking to attendees, one of the interesting dynamics emerging is how the democratization of information searching – through Google and more – means librarians must shift up in how they add value. Many spend much of their time using specialist databases (with 110 exhibitors pusing their wares here), and clearly can play an important role in finding, filtering, and customising information, but they find it difficult to sell their importance to their senior business or government bosses.
Layoffs are rife in business libraries and information centers, with these kinds of services easy targets in cost-cutting. One of my key messages to this community was how they can and must contribute to creating a global information architecture that enables collaborative filtering. The vast majority of Internet users only look, and don’t contribute. If information professionals and others can make it easy for people to input what they find valuable, and for others to tap into that consolidated input, this will help support the emergence of the “global brain” in which we can draw on each others’ perspectives, rather than face the information jungle alone. Blogs are critical in the creation of this infrastructure. The simple act of providing a link changes the shape of the Internet, influences Google and Blogdex results, and allows others to find more easily what you think is worthwhile. We all must participate, not just observe.
The recent Supernova Conference in Palo Alto explored the theme of decentralization – of the networks, software, communications, and media. So many of the attendees were bloggers that it’s easy to get a good feel for the conference and content through what they wrote. As attendees reported, the clicking of keyboards throughout conference sessions testified to the live logging of ideas and impressions. The conference set up a group weblog, with another list of conference blogs here. Salon.com also had a good article. In many ways, the theme of decentralization is that of the living networks. Emergent behaviours come from the unstructured combination of many participants. Open source software, distributed innovation, and peer-to-peer content distribution are just some of the examples. One of the key issues discussed at the conference was the postulated emerging “end-to-end” nature of networks. Connectivity – the pipes provided by telcos – will be dumb, and the value-added activities provided at the ends. Web services can be applied not just in application integration, but to making everyone’s touchpoint to the networks encapsulate highly customized functionality.