Blogging for Business
The term Blog is a contraction of 'Weblog' and the act of 'Blogging' is the making of said logs (see for example: http://www.blogger.com). Some businesses are coming to understand that 'real' news isn't just a ticker-tape-like news feed from Reuters or the BBC. In business, the most significant news is what you, and those you have reason to care about, did yesterday, are doing today, and plan to do tomorrow. If the people you want to know about are at your work, or, in your supply chain (or are your customers), then you may have thought about business blogging.
Essentially, blogging tools and portals have become a significant focus for a trendy vision of community publishing. They allow users to quickly generate simple web pages and link to others, directly from within a public web page. In their simplest form they are used as stream-of-consciousness public web diaries or activity logs, hence 'weblogs'. They don't require expertise to use, they capture and share text easily and can even be extended to include images, sounds and movies. Members of your community can "subscribe" to logs and upload comments to them - and even vote on the significance of the entries. In this way, this simple and yet pervasive set of tools has formed a large number of significant public "communities of practice" around the bottom-up drive of community members.
One early corporate blogger and co-developer of some blogging portal work relates how the corporate blog called 'Stuff' became a knowledge management mainstay for the company Pyra Labs (now a part of Google).
"When new people joined our company, one of the first things folks did was read back through Stuff -all the way to the beginning. In a few hours they had a better sense of what Pyra was about than any mission statement could have hoped to communicate. We didn't need to tell anyone what our corporate values were; the spirit of the company was revealed through the posts available everyday in Stuff." (Meg Hourihan, in Bausch, P. et al 2002)
One drawback to a blog is that a lack of continuing input, (eg. the author's creative drive dries up for whatever reason), renders the blog far less interesting to its intended audience. The most popular blogs are those that receive regular updates - personal blogs are often updated daily, but there are no rules as to how often you should post to them. Their sequential nature also means that old postings are almost never revised or updated, but this is not such a problem as these postings are generally hidden away in an archive - still available to those who like to refer back to earlier material.
Blogs are generally searchable, but not as readily as static web pages, since their content is normally derived from a database on request, rather than existing as a set of static HTML pages. Blogging tools often include their own search tool, so that once you have found a blog of interest, its easy to search through its entire archive for particular key terms. In this respect, its important for the author to correctly META tag their blog so that regular web search engines can at least find its front page. There are search engines specifically aimed at the BlogSphere, such as Technorati (http://www.technorati.com/), who currently claim to index over 22 million blogs, where bloggers are encouraged to manually meta tag their postings. Blogger has its own internal search tool.
Communities and Tools
Although a blog normally has a single contributor, Blogs can also be set up to allow more than one author, to create a collaborative writing environment. Bloggers often choose to allow others to make comments on their blog entries, so a one-way communication method becomes two-way. Blog rolls are essentially just lists of blogs on similar topics, or of friends and associates of the blog's authors(s), whose blogs may not be related at all by subject.
The emphasis is on simplicity, and knowledge of HTML is unnecessary. Indeed, use of HTML is almost discouraged. Blogging tools usually include a toolbar to provide one-click methods for bolding, italicising, etc. of selected text and methods for turning words or phrases into hypertext links. Whether you choose to host the blog on your own server, or use one of the many free services, like Blogger, submission is via a web form, often with only a single, plain-text field. Some systems allow the upload and hosting of images. Blogger (now part of Google) are amongst the services that offer a 'from phone to blog' solution - quote "you could never sit down in front of a PC again and just keep sending content from your phone to the Web".
Feeds and Syndication
The sequential nature of a blog makes it an ideal candidate to produce an RSS data stream. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a format for syndicating news and the content of news-like sites, including major news sites like Wired, news-oriented community sites like Slashdot, and personal weblogs. Provision of an RSS feed often indicated by the presence a small orange button - the button is linked to the URL of the feed. In order to use the feed, you need an RSS reader termed a 'news aggregator'. The RSS standard has unfortunately not been strictly adhered to, and there are a now number of flavours, making validation somewhat of a challenge.