Twittering with James Robertson and Alex Manchester, the other day we found ourselves talking about how we define blogging and the differences between plain old content management and blogging… here are some more thoughts on that issue:
This is something I’ve talked about in the past, describing it as the grey area issue between social computing and other traditional information management tools. What this means is that it is possible for social media tools to be used for traditional information management, and also vice versa. Consider that the earliest "webblogs" pre-dated the existence of blogging software. Blogging is therefore not defined by the software – instead the software evolved to meet a need, allow rapid adoption and then enhanced it (typically as innovators were able to hack and develop different scripts, plugins and services). Likewise, other applications have also since adopted blogging functionality, which can be defined at the most basic level of permitting the chronological addition of content. Of course most users now expect far more sophistication in their blogging tools, including features such as commenting, tagging, RSS feeds and more.
However, this blogging functionality still doesn’t define the activity of blogging (what I consider to be the "form" of usage and is different from the "function" of the software). Its like the difference between using PowerPoint as an artist’s medium, rather than a presentation tool. So the key difference between blogging and content management is the intent of the blogger to engage their readers on some level over a period of time, rather than simply broadcasting information. And that to me to is best described as a conversation, although hyper-connected one at that.
The inclusion of commenting (and other track back)functionality to me reflects a desire of the blogger to engage with their readers, particularly those that don’t blog themselves. In particular, a blog without comments limits the conversation to only those that also blog. But an even better proxy of intent is how the blogger engages with the conversation around them. Ultimately, participation is still more important than functionality.
In this respect I don’t consider the posting of news items under the banner of a "blog" as blogging. It has nothing to do with the blogger’s voice, although this might make them a more effective and credible as a blogger overall. Again it comes back to intent. But remember, this isn’t a prescriptive statement and it doesn’t stop anyone from using RSS or blogging software for broadcasting information (a great information management benefit).
Incidentally, Alex reflects on the key message in Niall Cook‘s book, "Enterprise 2.0", with a blog post titled, Intranets can’t just be about conversations. This reminds me of the model in Stenmark‘s paper on "The Relationship between Information and Knowledge", which I use to discuss the different roles of intranets:
- Awareness; and
In the past most organisations only used the intranet for information and some communication. Intranet 2.0 however is beginning to offer a much more rounded purpose – getting back to Alex‘s point, I agree its not just about conversation. Similarly, blogging software can be used for all the purposes listed above, but in my mind a true blog is still all about the conversation.