Earlier this week, the Journal News published an interesting article on IBM's blogging initiative - Big Blue Bit by the Blogging Bug written by reporter Julie Moran Alterio, who interviewed me for the article.
She asked me why IBM encouraged its employees to participate in the blogging community, to which I replied that "We absolutely recognize that blogging, just like the Internet, World Wide Web, Linux and open source, is a major initiative in the marketplace that we should be part of. The best way to be part of it is not to observe it passively but to do it actively." I also commented on the difference between blogs and other more institutional, less personal forms of communication: "Even if you're writing about mainframes or you're writing about XML, it's your personal style that comes across. What you choose to write about is which of the contents of your head are you sharing with the world"
In addition to focusing on IBM's blogging initiative, the article discusses the general topic of blogs by business people and corporations. Commenting that many corporations are worried about the potential negative impact of blogs by disgruntled customers, David Sifry, founder and CEO of Technorati, a leading search engine for the blogosphere, said that "In the world of the Internet, you don't own your brand. Your customers and your users own your brand. You're lucky if you get to shepherd it. That loss of control is very scary." Sifry also said that the number of corporate bloggers is growing, with about 15,000 doing so as of a survey six months ago. "We're still very much in the early stages of how corporations are learning to use blogs," he added.
This very much reminds me of the situation ten years ago when businesses started to seriously embrace the Internet and World Wide Web. I remember that lots of businesses were at first nervous about going on-line and providing Internet access to their applications and information to everyone out there, as well as letting their employees connect to the Internet at work. They feared a similar loss of control, pretty much like how David Sifry describes the fear many businesses now have toward blogging and similar new collaborative innovations that are increasingly empowering individuals and communities.
While the particulars might be different, I have no doubt that businesses will have to learn to embrace these emerging Internet-based market forces just like they did ten years ago. It will be fascinating to see how it all develops this time around.