Blogs butting into business

If you haven't noticed, weblogs are escaping the world of the opinionated scribbler in the wilderness and being taken up as a means to extend corporate intelligence gathering.

Blogs, as they're known, are no longer just an online epistolary sideline. They're joining traditional project collaboration tools like document management, whiteboards, email and other online meeting spaces, meaning team members within companies and outside can contribute regardless of location. Weblog software aggregates unstructured information in a web-publishable form, by time and topic, and XML can be used to embed links from a variety of information sources.

While most private bloggers use free or very cheap software to produce their webblogs (like, run by the Google-owned Pyra Labs, motto: "Push-button publishing for the people"), software vendors sniff a new market in the making. Techdirt, Traction Software and others — including the usual software heavyweights — are building in things like enterprise-level security and management, as they are to another technology that started off life as a cult tool, instant messaging.

Those known for their professional opinions are even letting their pundits into the act, such as the analysts at US-based Jupiter Research. Another plus: journalistic blogs like and often have more time and patience than mainstream media to investigate stories, disgraced US senator Trent Lott's segregationist views being a case in point. Those like provide a public forum for debate and public haranguing.

It's all part of the much-vaunted move to total knowledge management.

And why do people blog? Longtime local pundit Russell Brown moved his Hard News radio slot to the web last year, in the form of The site, created by Webmedia cast-offs Cactuslab, offers the diary-like entries of six writers.

Brown says the idea isn't new, linked journals being around since the beginning of the web, but acknowledges they have captured the zeitgeist. They allow comment, and linking to the research behind it.

"For a weblog to work, it has to be personal — and that presents a challenge to businesses and other organisations used to speaking with a corporate voice," says Brown.

"It's interesting that while the BBC is encouraging its war reporters to blog, CNN has told its people to stop.

"Some businesses see it as not only harmless but beneficial: there is a growing collection of blogs by Microsoft staffers, for instance. They don't give away any company secrets — far from it — but their presence does humanise the company, which has to be good," he says.

Fellow Publicaddress blogger and IT analyst Rob O'Neill, a former journalist, says he gets more direct feedback from readers about his blog than he ever has at any print publication. __

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