Saturday 27 August 2005

Blogging is An Act of Courage

HERE’S A LITTLE MOVIE of me ranting about blogs and blogging. A bit of context, this was taken at the Blog Business Summit last week in San Francisco. The short movie is linked from the photo, it’s 21,327 KB in .mov format.

molly speaking about blogs

The question was asked: “At what point does internal controversy become important to express to audience members?” Readers here will know I’m a renegade when it comes to this – I believe the authentic voice can help in all public relations. In this answer, I’m referring to certain Microsoft employees who have stepped up and even risked jobs in order to try and attend to public demand for information.

My response to the question:

“Because those individuals have been given a blog voice, a lot of times they will step over the line and just put that controversy out, or answer the question, knowing that on the inside they might be causing trouble for their own jobs . . . but knowing that the public is expecting that of them. It is a very difficult thing to do.

I think it takes a lot of courage. Blogging in general – if you’re doing it well – it’s an act of courage. In my opinion, if you’re doing it well, it’s an act of courage.”

The complete video, which includes my colleague and co-presenter Darren Barefoot’s far more conservative perspective, can be found at FutureMedia.

The way I see it, if you want a blog to be interesting, particularly from a business perspective, it has to be personal, authentic and even controversial. Otherwise, don’t blog – it’s not going to be interesting.

Courage is interesting. Stepping out of the expected is interesting. Facilitating change is interesting. Publishing legalese and press releases is not interesting, nor is it very courageous.

What do you think – is blogging about breaking rules? I can promise you this, as a blogger who has watched corporate blogs change the face of a closed company such as Microsoft into one that is far more forward facing than ever, I don’t believe conservative use of blogs is in order. If the attorneys and marketing departments are watching every blog post for potential problems, then doesn’t the blog just end up becoming a long list of public relations bullshit?

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 06:38 | Comments (18)

Comments (18)

  1. I think there’s a need for both, but to me (and probably most others?), the much more interesting blogs are those who, as you say, are filled with rule-breaking courage, filled with passion for the subject they discuss, so much that they’ll go through great lengths to express their controversial opinions.

    A bit of ruckus is good, sometimes ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. I think blogging is more about breaking boundaries in human relationships and will change rules, rather than breaking (conservative) rules.

  3. Yes!Fucking HOOOORAH!

    Go Molly! And I mean that most sincerely.

  4. You’ve encouraged me, Molly, to start sticking my neck out there a little more. To be more courageous in my blogging. My question, though, is in your opinion how is blogging done correctly? You said that blogging is an act of courage when it’s done correctly. How is it done correctly?

  5. And with people (see: and getting sued left, right and centre? Sadly, we do have to watch what we say.

    Hard to see where it’s headed though any sane, sensible person could assume they can just carry on saying online what it’s ok to say offline… Sadly some of these companies that like bully-boy tactics don’t always see it that way.

    I think the issue of free speech in blogs is going to come to a head sooner or later.

  6. Ben: you know you’re doing it right when you start getting hatemail ;o)

    Blogs are an expression of ego, just like design. We believe our design skills are good enough to be appreciated and we believe what we say is important enough to be read. A blogger without any ego is a blogger without any point.

  7. I think an immature company would look at blogging as a problem to be dealt with, therefore blogging breaks rules.

    But for a more mature company, one that recognizes the opportunity presented in blogging, it is more about refining what level of deviation from the rules they are willing to accept.

    Maturity levels here don’t necessarily correlate with the age of the company. Maturity comes from the people who make up the company and how willing they all are (or at least a majority) to embrace new ways of doing old things.

    But then again, I also am a renegade because I believe companies should allow employees to blog on company time and resources. How’s that for outside of boxes thinking! ๐Ÿ˜›

  8. My question, though, is in your opinion how is blogging done correctly? You said that blogging is an act of courage when itโ€™s done correctly.

    @ben: I said “If you’re doing it well.” That doesn’t necessarily mean correctly ๐Ÿ˜‰ Quite seriously, there is no right or wrong way. What seems to be powerful and productive is when a person, company or organization uses their voice to motivate, provoke thought and create relationships.

    @vicki: The bottom line point here is that not every person or company should blog for the public!

    @kev: yes, that hatemail is pretty indicative one has touched a nerve or twenty. I do like what you say about ego – but it’s a semantic point. Usually people with opinions are also egocentric to a degree. There is a difference – egocentrics become boring if they just focus on the self.

    @matthew: Well written, as always. However, I do think companies are too keen to publicly blog just yet. I don’t think most of them understand the ramifications and responsibilities. They’ve only heard the hype. This is where the challenge is. Companies that are progressive or open to shifts in thinking should investigate not only blogs, but all technology that can apply to goals. There are many uses for blogs internally if not for the public.

    Once again, it’s not the technology we end up finding as problematic. Rather, the ways in which we are effectively – or inneffectively – applying that technology to a given problem.


  9. You go Molly! I’m not surprised one bit you went on this rant.

    I too am in the interesting position of sitting at Y! and blogging to the world. On the contrary, one thing I made sure that the company knew was that -in fact- I had a blog and I had intentions.

    One great thing about Y! was that they told everyone in the company to get a blog! I mean, how cool is that? That was, of course, promoting everyone to get get a new 360 Blog… but still ๐Ÿ™‚

    You also have a good point that in that it takes courage because it makes every blogger think twice about what they’re writing. Am I allowed to write this? What will my managers think? Why will this matter? Are they going to find this post? Does writing this matter?

    All valid questions but none to always tip toe. Courage does, in fact, take courage and it would be a piss poor life if you always had to look behind your shoulder and cover your tracks.

    But to be quite honest, it’s a way of being open and honest. We all have nothing to hide. We write what we write when we want to write it. Keeping in mind that none of us is going to go insane and just begin ripping on someone publicly and yada yada. Then you deserve to get fired.

    – Understand your boundaries
    – Know what’s ethical
    – Still be bold

    Keep ranting Molly!

  10. You’re right about it being a semantic point Molly – to stretch it even further I differentiate between those with ego and those who are merely arrogant, the point being that ego is a good thing whereas arrogance is, as you say, just dull.

  11. Sorry for the misquote, Molly *embarrassed*. Thanks for answering my question though.

  12. Erg, I didn’t know that asterisks would give the same effect as an italic tag! Let me rewrite that comment:

    Sorry for the misquote Molly. I’m ebarrassed. Thanks for answering my question though.

  13. And I can’t type either.

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  15. Ahhhh…Molly….you do make me think!

    “if you want a blog to be interesting, particularly from a business perspective, it has to be personal, authentic and even controversial. Otherwise, donโ€™t blog – itโ€™s not going to be interesting.”

    If you asked me what made a blog interesting and valuable from a business perspective I’d say:
    * personal & authentic, you really believe what you say
    * relevant to today and the future
    * thought provoking

    And yes, one way to be thought provoking is to be controversial. But I don’t think it is the only way. Sometimes, just sharing a piece of novel information you’ve discovered helps others make an important connection.

    To me, blogs are about sharing ideas. Creative, little known, inspiring, personal, novel, controversial, clarifying…(add your fav type of idea to share here).

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