Stop Publishing, Start Communicating

[Note: This piece was originally written for the June 2004 gencon Newsletter. It’s very cluetrain-ish, but given the non-technical nature of the target audience (upper/middle level management, small business owners), and their probable lack of exposure to that book, I thought it a worthwhile exercise.]

Bill Gates’s recent speech at the Microsoft CEO Summit extolling the virtue of ‘blogs‘ got me thinking about a question I’m often asked when people find out what I do for a living. "So what is the web good for?".

At its most basic the web is a method of publication. You write some content, stick it up on the web, and with any luck people read it.

But when we look a little deeper, and at blogging in particular, we start to see something more than just a publishing system.

The majority of blogs allow visitors to leave comments on the piece they’ve just read, turning the entry from one person’s lone voice in the wilderness to a living, breathing congress where anyone can join in and add their point of view.

We also start to see a more conversational tone, far removed from the clean sanitised corporate copy-writing on most sites. We see communication between people, we see conversations and communities.

My answer to people who ask me what the web is good for is simple. It’s all about the conversations. It’s all about people.

I’m not suggesting that you run off and set up a blog on your company website, but I would urge you to get out there in the blogosphere (oh yes, us geeks have a name for everything!), look at the conversations, listen at the tones used and then take a moment to think about the content on your site.

(a good place to get started reading blogs is technorati, a blog aggregation site. Try a search on a topic that interests you, see where it takes you. Join in!)

Ask yourself what your company ‘voice’ is, could it be friendlier, softer, or even funnier? Are you just publishing for the sake of it or are you actually communicating?