Blogging, the latest trend on the Internet, impacts not only the mainstream media and private Internet users but also business-to the point that blogs can no longer be ignored by organizations. Well-known companies such as Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, and Google use them internally as knowledge-sharing and communication tools as well as externally to express their point of view to the public. Weblogs also play an important role for information professionals and knowledge managers who are responsible for informing their internal clients about the latest trends and news relevant to their organizations.
As frequent, chronological publications of personal thoughts and Web links, most Weblogs are part of a community with permanent links to each other and to late-breaking news. Information spreads very fast in most cases, appearing in blogs even before reaching the mainstream media. This fact makes Weblogs an essential and unique source to use in finding late-breaking news and discovering the newest trends.
Weblogs don't merely respond to news and information; their authors also publish their own thoughts and knowledge about specific topics, which allows readers to get different viewpoints. Through comments, linking, and trackback, bloggers share their knowledge with each other and develop new ideas.
Many companies and their employees started blogging to build trust and increase their relationships with clients, to represent their company in a more personal way to the public. The information on company blogs allows knowledge workers to receive insights on their competitor companies, which can't be found elsewhere on the Web.
SURVEYING INFO PROS
To learn more about how information professionals and knowledge managers use and value blogs, I launched a survey using the Web-based Survey Monkey. I conducted the survey in October-November 2004 and had 415 participants. The respondents were chiefly from North America (42 percent), followed by Australia/New Zealand (28 percent), Europe (22 percent), and other parts of the world (7 percent). The results of the survey show that 40.2 percent (or 167 people) already use blogs as such a source. The major application when using Weblogs as a source of business news and information is to stay on top of industry and profession developments and to share knowledge with colleagues in their industry.
The survey results also show that knowledge workers mainly read Weblogs specific to their profession. The most popular Weblogs, in popularity order, are ResourceShelf [www.resourceshelf.com], LISNews [www.lisnews.com], ResearchBuzz [www.researchbuzz.com], Library Stuff [www.librarystuff.net], Shifted Librarian [www.theshiftedlibrarian.com], and Librarian.net. These blogs all link to each other and have built a community of interest.
Knowledge workers manage the usage of blogs mainly by checking them directly. Many also read blogs through RSS feeds, but rarely find them through search engines.
Most of the respondents believe in the reliability of Weblogs: 47.7 percent out of 153 respondents think Weblogs are "somewhat important" and 43.1 percent believe blogs are "very reliable." This shows a high acceptance of blogs as a source of business news and information. Weblogs improve knowledge workers' work habits because, with blogs, they find information that they can't find elsewhere on the Web and they keep them more up-to-date on professional developments than other sources. However the majority don't see the advantage of saving time through reading Weblogs.
A large number of knowledge workers also maintain or contribute to a personal Weblog, some of them even to a company's, team/department's, or professional organization's Weblog. This shows that most knowledge workers are not only using blogs as sources for business news and information but also as knowledge sharing and communication tools.
However, not many knowledge …