The Blog as a Collaboration Tool

imageThe concept of blogging is not as new as you may think – only the technology is young. Well, younger than the average teenager, at least. Blogging came into the mainstream conscience by the late 1990’s, but had its beginnings in the early days of the world wide web, back when the internet was the private network of a privileged few.

For a full history of blogging with important names and dates, you can always read up on Wikipedia. My focus here is more on the business applicability of blogs, and their history inside of SharePoint.

Importance of Blogs on Social Communications

Access to information is critical to success in this day and age. Blogs have helped to democratize information, allowing each of us to share our expertise and opinions, and allowing us to tap into the the long tail of information (A couple must-reads are Chris Anderson’s Long Tail – with a link to his original article, and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers)

What makes an expert an expert, anyway? While the value of formal research remains at a premium, the opinion of so-called experts has become a commodity. (Why am I, with my MBA and 20 years of industry experience less of an expert than a 20-something research analyst at Forrester?) In a world of 24 hour news cycles, our thirst for more information – specifically, information that meets our social, political, and theological perspectives – has grown astronomically. And with this thirst, blogging has exploded.

The root cause of this explosion is not just about the improvements to the underlying technology – although technology has certainly increased the rate of change – but about cultural changes. The social informatics of the way that we work have been dramatically altered over the last 20 years, and the blogging platform has played a major role in that change.

The Customer Relationship and 2010

Blogs enable dialog between content owner and constituency, quickly and inexpensively, turning one-to-one communication into many-to-many communication, which over time can drive down support costs, reduce product requirements cycles, and improve the overall customer relationship.

From a business perspective, this tight connection with customers allows for constant reflection on imagewhat works / what doesn’t. It forces companies to be more vigilant about their brand, allowing them to react quickly to customer complaints or queries. From a capitalist perspective, this also drives healthy competition and innovation, as companies have a direct view into a competitor’s dirty laundry and the known gaps within a product or platform.

Within SharePoint, there was a similar – if not slow – progression in blogging technology. In WSS 2.0 and SPS 2001, the paradigm of blogging had not yet shifted, and site owners who wanted blog-like functionality (it had not yet entered the average user’s lexicon, even if the fundamentals of blogging were in place) were limited to using content web parts and announcements to achieve their desired result of user/site owner content. Much like the static website, they could alter their portal, but this was once again a one-way, broadcast model of communication.

imageIn SharePoint 2007, Microsoft added some basic blogging capability, but the technology fell far short  of the innovation happening within commercial offerings, such as Blogger, WordPress, and Typepad (my platform of choice). With the 2010 release, SharePoint has finally caught up with the mainstream, and may even surprise you with some of their innovations. Of course, aside from the feature-by-feature comparisons, the true value of blogging within SharePoint is the seamless integration across the platform.

After selecting the blog template (which now shares the template browsing capability of the MS Office-based products), you can simply name your new site and destination URL, click Create, and your new blog is live.

Your blog is accessible through your My Site, and your entries show up on your activity feed. With SharePoint 2010, Microsoft has simplified blog management, giving administrators the ability to quickly and easily add, modify, and remove posts, comments, links, photos, and change the look and feel of their blog. Readers have the ability to comment, flag as a favorite (I Like It), and to tag and add notes, all of which appear in the user’s My Site activity stream for others to discover.

All I can say is – it’s about time!

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Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.