March 27, 2006

In Favor Of NOT blogging

I'd been saving some of the following material for a big retrospective article, but a discussion today against corporate blogging is a good occasion for writing this post, and makes it not completely self-indulgent.
For example: Seven rules for corporate blogging:

[#1] Don't do it. If you have no compelling business reason to get involved in the blogosphere, then don't. While there's no evidence, beyond a few anecdotes, that corporate blogging leads to better business results, there are clearly risks. If you give bloggers too much freedom, they may "go native" and tarnish your reputation by writing something stupid. If you try to rein them in, you'll be attacked for being a dinosaur. That's a lose-lose situation - the kind companies should avoid if at all possible. And don't buy that nonsense about needing to have "conversations" with the marketplace. That's an ideology, not a strategy.

When I started my blog, there was some very deliberate thinking involved. One idea was that, basically, I didn't have anything to lose. I was being attacked every single day, by a Slashdot "editor", and it seemed to me that anything at all that helped me counteract those attacks was likely worthwhile. And a somewhat "personal" tone was probably a good idea, since free-speech activism involves emotionally stirring arguments. Moreover, given that I was relentlessly portrayed so negatively, presenting myself as some sort of business-etiquette-rules person wasn't going to work (not to mention that I couldn't do it anyway).

But, there's costs involved. There's definitely evidence that decision hurt me, in my (failed) quest for a policy position. It wasn't the only negative there, by far, but it seemed to be a negative. The blog evangelists, being evangelists, do not like to serious consider the negative aspects of what they preach. It's akin to a pitch for quack medicine - good for what ails you, no side-effects whatsoever.

Going through this discussion with marketing types sometimes seems a trip through every cognitive flaw, designed to play on thinking errors, so as to lead a person to the wrong answer (but an answer profitable to the marketing types). There's the lottery/stock-speculation argument ("Look, look, that person bought a hot stock, and made a killing" - yeah, but how many others lost everything?). There's social reinforcement bias ("I read your blog, and love it" - but how many people are going to use it against me, and have far more power than you?). There's emotional appeals to frustrated hopes and dreams ("A Voice In The Conversation" - where if you're not on the relevant A-list, it's actually more like ranting on a streetcorner, and then saying maybe you like ranting on a streetcorner). Not to mention the option of personal attack ("Since it works for everyone worthy, if it doesn't work for you, you must not be worthy").

Anyway, these days I'm thinking more and more that for me, the costs/benefits have shifted in favor of not blogging. That, though I had my reasons, and it might even be argued to have been a good idea at the time, it's definitely not a good idea now. I've essentially been driven out of activism, and being gainfully employed is much more attractive than being marginalized. Note this doesn't mean there are no benefits - it means it's not worth the costs. The fact that the skeptical side considers a weighing of positives and negatives, while the marketing side seems to follow a cultist reinforcement of only favorable evidence, inclines me to believe that the skeptical side is right and the marketing side is wrong.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on March 27, 2006 05:19 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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