Monday, August 13, 2007

(Un)intentional broadening of community?

Bill Johnston has a nice write up on how discussion groups can play a central role of one's overall community strategy.

Although I find many of his points quite salient, the most intriguing takeaway for me is in what is not said. Specifically the following words are not used:
  • forum
  • message board
  • newsgroup
To me, this was immediately noticeable when going to tag this article. "Discussion groups," are often associated with forums, newsgroups or the like and I intended on tagging his post with "forums." Re-reading the article though, it became clear that Johnston did not include forums, etc in this article. I'm not sure if this was purposeful, but I appreciate the broadening of community beyond the tools themselves.

And speaking of broadening, were it not for the inclusion of one or two mentions of "online" community, the points made by Johnston can just as likely apply to community strategy "offline" in face to face discussion groups by way of a neighborhood council, or a local meetup. The principles that guide those, I would suggest, are quite applicable online as well.

Blogging as transformational

Gerald Kanapathy's recent post on successful blogging points towards Microsoft as one company that has been transformed by blogging. Specifically he talks about how blogs "opened up Microsoft" and goes on to say how "it's now amazingly open and responsive."

While great as that sounds, I'd have to agree with Yag in that the most interesting part is when Kanaphathy writes:

What did Microsoft do? I don't know if they had it before, but it takes certain
organizational cultural values. It's not about process, or rules. In fact, it
requires acceptance of uncertainty and ambiguity, tolerance of risk, openness to
criticism, and a degree of confidence. These are not things that can be
proceduralized, but instead come from how the organization is, uh, organized,
and simply the underlying values.
To me, this is key. At the end of the day, blogs are a means by which people communicate. It is a means, not an end. So for all those wanting to start a blog because everyone else is, ultimately it comes down to something more intangible. How open and willing is your group or company to change? To uncertainty? To risk? To criticism? To engage with people in an open an ongoing conversation?

While this may come across to some as staying away from blogging if the underlying values are not there, it's not meant to be. I just wanted to call this out by illustrating that blogs are not an end to itself. It's part of a much larger picture, and ultimately it's success (or failure) depends upon so much more than what we can traditionally measure at this time. Should a company, organization or person for that matter get into blogging, I hope they do so with their eyes open to the whole process.