Blogs n Wikis: Business Models or Drinks at a Social Gathering?
Can these technologies be the Next Big Thing for the corporate enterprise?
Note: This story is available on both Industrial Market Trends and the International Association of Online Communicators Blog. We will share comments from both audiences in order to open up the dialogue and share ideas in true blog and wiki fashion.
Two of the fastest growing Internet models are web logs (blogs) and wiki wiki (wikis). They are interactive publishing models that take advantage of a social network to develop content in the form of information and opinions. Can these be the collaborative tools that provide a forum for debate on engineering and industrial issues as well as business ideas?
Web logs—or blogs as they are commonly—represent one of the fastest growing interactive publishing models on the Internet, with over 10 million blogs in existence today. A good definition of blogs can be found on Wikipedia (Yes, we’ll discuss wikis in a minute.). Blog topics swing wildly from personal diaries to serious politics. They came into the mainstream limelight during the recent presidential campaign, first by driving a grassroots following for Howard Dean, then when bloggers broke the story of possible forgery in the CBS Memogate episode that brought down one of television’s most powerful news anchors.
Countless articles about blogs and the corporate enterprise have appeared in mainstream business publications including, for example, Business Week and the Wall Street Journal (both require subscriptions).
A Wiki is a web application that allows a social network (in this context, any group of individuals who participates in a given interactive web forum) to create and edit content with the goal of producing the best information possible. (It’s interesting to note that the term is based on ‘wiki wiki,’ a Hawaiian reference meaning ‘quick’ or ‘informal.’)
Now what do these models have to do with business?
We launched our blog Industrial Market Trends on January 18th of this year. The reception by our users has been outstanding. With over 1,100 user comments made on our blog since January, it shows that users in the industrial market feel comfortable sharing opinions and ideas online. A good example is a story we ran the day we launched, Welding vs. Brazing. This piece received six comments within a couple of days. It evolved into an interesting discussion about different technologies in this area.
Here are some examples of our most user-commented stories:
Restoring the Luster of Manufacturing, 20 Comments
Sprucing Up Engineering's Status, 58 Comments
Hybrid Cars Get ‘Green-Tuned, 36 Comments
The Real Upside & Downside of Outsourcing, 33 Comments
Promises & Pitfalls of a Hydrogen Economy, 27 Comments
Top 20 Engineering Breakthroughs, 18 Comments
New articles—some light, some serious—have been added each week since. Most generate considerable interest and interaction, from funny or heated discussions to substantive technical discourse. Blogging as the creation of community also supports more focused groups: for example, employee-specific dialogue that includes questions, comments, and feedback regarding company policies, office situations, and day-to-day problem solving. Employees from anywhere around the globe post a question or an idea and receive feedback from their peers without limitations related, for instance, to time zones or geography.
An article in Computerworld, Blogs Play A Role In Homeland Security (
The universality and ease of use of the typical web browser makes blogs not only convenient but accessible to the masses. Blogs are a centralized information/knowledge repository that can be accessed from anywhere on the enterprise network. They create a community of employees sharing ideas, opinions and insight. They can also help employees discover how a particular problem or situation has been addressed previously, actually improving productivity since the wheel needn’t be re-invented each time the same area is broached—either in the same or at other local or global facilities.
Wikis follow much of the same dynamic as blogs. Documents can be posted by anyone within an organization and are edited and modified by peers to create an authoritative whitepaper built and perfected by employees. These models can also be adapted by associations and organizations whose members share common interests. Cited above, Wikipedia is a great example of an encyclopedia being written and edited by a social network. Internal whitepapers and other documents can be produced and edited in the same way.
So, I pose the questions to you. Do you agree that a blog provides a valuable, healthy opportunity for these types of discussions within a company—for example, a diverse group of engineers on the Internet? Can a wiki be a critical communications tool heading to the perfect technical whitepaper? Does the concept of an online social network have its place in corporate
Interesting Articles and Resources
Rise of the Blog, CIO Insight,
April 5, 2005
Blogs & Wikis: Technologies for Enterprise Applications?, Gilbane Report, Bluebill Advisors, Inc., March 2005
Enterprise Blogging in Practice, Notes, DrunkAndRetired.com, January 22, 2005
Beginners' Guide to Corporate Blogging, Corporateblogging.info, November 01, 2004
Sidebar: Why a Business Blog?, Computerworld,
January 26, 2004
Blogs Bubble Into Business, Computerworld,
January 26, 2004
Blogs Play A Role In Homeland Security, Computerworld,
May 12, 2003
Enterprise use of blogs, wikis and RSS Survey, Gilbane Report, Bluebill Advisors, Inc.
TWiki™ – an
Collaboration Platform Enterprise