Your notes will be a sticky mess of strawberry syrup from the desert.
Last night I had an opportunity to attend a networking banquet for a regional chapter of a national professional association. The banquet’s speaker was a local business woman who is a jane-of-many trades: publishing on demand, web developer, women’s marketing consultant. She also runs workshops for businesses who would like to implement blogs to ramp up profits and visibility. Her presentation was a kind of primer for “how blogs can help your business.”
To be fair, her presentation was directed at entrepeneurs who have little or no experience with blogging, so the discussion was a little “thin.” But it was certainly thought-provoking for me, on several levels:
The first: a good deal of time was spent making the distinction between a regular web site and a blog. The speaker’s claim was that it was the commenting function that made a blog what it was, and I don’t think I completely disagree; although, I don’t think it’s the simple function in and of itself that makes a blog. It’s what results *from* a series of connected comments. It’s the fact that a blog doesn’t exist as a single entity in one place: coments result in posts elsewhere, result in trackbacks, result in comments, etc etc. It’s almost as though the blog isn’t the “place” itself (ie, the URL where the blog lives), but instead the blog is the network, IS the many connected comments and posts. She described the blog as a “thin” web site, which I do think I disagree with. I would actually call a blog “thick,” simply because the ways that the posts become archives, the way content is updated fairly frequently. the ways author(s) are present and accountable. It could be, however, that I don’t understand what she meant by “thin.”
The second: This presentation made clear to me an issue that I’ve been grappling with ever since I picked up Hugh Hewitt’s book. Blogs for business?? Wha? The idea had never been quite right to me, and last night I started to realize why. So many of the values that blogging embodies: sharing, honesty, full disclosure, unabashed subjectivity, etc do not mix with commercialism. Marketing is about creating a well-crafted, engineered lack that people will want to fill. Marketing is about phrases like “virtually spotless” and “helps treat jock itch.” Networking with and linking to competitors? Allowing open comments so consumers can offer feedback, good and ugly? Will blogs change the business model, or will businesses simply change blogs to fit the traditional, competitve model?
The third: Maybe I’m slow. OK, I am slow. But Derek mentioned to me last year, as I naively offered him some quotes from Rebecca Blood’s book _You’ve Got Blog_, that writing and publishing codex ABOUT blogs was not quite right to him. Last night’s speaker was adamant that people still want to “have that thing they can hold in their hand,” that books will still sell (and her being a publisher, I can understand her push for that claim to be true). You can’t learn to blog by reading a book about it. And a blog is not a thing you can hold in your hand, really. A blog is really nothing like a book at all. They both use text, the written word, and that, I think, is the only real similarity.
In all, the presentation was slightly uncomfortable for me. It was quite like looking at someone from an older generation, your grandmother, maybe (though this woman was by no means “old”), trying to fit into some waist-hugging jeans and sporting a belly-button ring, and trying to convince others of that same generation that she really did look cool and that they would look cool, too, if they would just adopt this happenin’ fashion.
But you can’t fake a blog. Small steps in the beginning, you know? Self-awareness. Asking for help, admitting to mistakes or when you really don’t know what you’re talking about. Saying “I don’t know” when you field a question that you DON’T KNOW the answer to. Then getting better, more savvy, messing with your templates, a new banner, whatever, but never losing sight of the fact that there are always people who know a little more, can take it a little farther, can be a little better–and being cool with that.
Business doesn’t tip its hat. It doesn’t admit mistakes unless ordered by court; it isn’t gracious. It’s cutthroat. The speaker said last night that blogs generate a datamine of/about potentinal customers–that blogs could be “the biggest tool in the coroporate arsenal.” Look. My blog is not a weapon, and I especially don’t want it used as a weapon AGAINST me.
Of course, what I hope for is that blogs will change business–make them more accountable for claims and actions. And I think that the relationship between blogs and business will shape up as a unit in my WRT 302 Digital Writing course in the fall, where one of the underlying research questions will be “Do (and if so how) writing technologies transform cultural values and practices?”
A similar inquiry could probably serve a WRT 307 Professional Writing as well.