Thinking about some of my recent posts and the comments I've received, I've been considering the question, "What is a blog?"
I don't mean what is a blog in terms of attributes such as programming language used or how the content appears on the screen. I think we have some well established definitions to deal with those particular questions even if we want to argue about some of the finer points.
What I'm trying to consider is how blogs are used. This is a quick brainstorm of high-level blog use cases (rather than a fully refined list) that I'm playing with right now:
- Data and information broadcasting - using a blog as a channel to broadcast information, particularly into an RSS feed for easy consumption.
- WCMS replacement - using a blog application as an alternative to a traditional Web Content Management System.
- Journals - a blog that is designed purely for the purposing of recording information or ideas, with either no audience or a specific reader in mind. Blogs in an elearning context are sometimes used in this way.
- Groupware 2.0 - think of the activity centred blogs, as described by people like Rod Boothby. These are almost a hybrid of all of other use cases.
- One-To-Many blogging - the classic example of a one-to-many blog is the CEO blog. The purpose of a one-to-many blog is communication, but using the blog style so that the message is more authentic and trustworthy. If they are used for good, then full marks to those executives who reach out to their employees and customers in this way.
- Social blogging - as opposed to one-to-many blogging, social blogging is many-to-many and at its best becomes a hyperlinked conversation. An importance difference between one-to-many and social blogging is that the conversation should take place as peers - this means there are no experts and people can disagree with each other, making great conditions for wisdom of the crowds.
I want to point out right now that these are all legitimate uses for blog software, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either misguided or trying to sell you something you don't want :-)
However, in the same way that there is no right way to use a blog, it is important note that a blog may morph between different types over time (many people who want to be social bloggers often start out as a different type); further in the blogosphere we find an ecosystem exists where blogs of one type utilise blogs of other types for content (also think about the 1% rule here).
The multipurpose nature of blogs makes them exciting, but if we want to evangelize blogging by organisations (either inside or outside the firewall) then I think we need to understand the nuances of these use cases and the impact they might have on the desired or expected outcome.