Weblogs, or blogs, constitute a significant new development in the information world. They're taking the business world by storm. From the perspective of records and information management (RIM) professionals, they present unprecedented challenges and opportunities. Leadership and policies are needed to shape and make optimal use of this new application. Most blogs are records, so sound records and information management principles must be applied. Other information management issues also must be addressed.
As a relatively new information phenomenon, definitions are unsettled.
* Microsoft defines blogs as frequently updated personal web journals that can dramatically help both small and large companies communicate their product messages They increase people's ability to share ideas and information exponentially, and on a worldwide scale.
* Accenture says blogs are an interactive website that allows the owner to publish ideas and information. Users can read and evaluate material and add new content, creating a conversation that spans time zones and continents.
* Technorati, a blog search engine and measurement firm, calls blogs a personal journal on the web and says the power of weblogs is that they allow millions of people to easily publish their ideas and millions more to comment on them. The firm further describes blogs as a fluid, dynamic medium, more akin to a "conversation" than to a library.
* Harvard Law School weighs in with a definition of blogs as a hierarchy of text, images, media objects, and data, arranged chronologically, that can be viewed in an HTML browser. The center of the hierarchy is a sequence of weblog posts each with a title, link, and description. The school's Internet policy states that a weblog gives one a publication where ideas can stand without interference.
Blogs vary from recitation of individual opinions and analysis to "aggregators" that mainly point readers to other blogs, websites, and other sources. Some are straightforward narrative; others allow visitors to add comments to the original content. Some are internal, i.e., accessible only within a company; others are posted on public web sites for anyone to see and, in fact, aim to reach and influence a broad readership. Some are sponsored and include ads to defray costs or help turn a profit. Blogs are related to but not the same as wikis, collaborative websites comprising the continually updated work of many people. Wikis allow collaborators to edit, modify, or even delete work of previous authors.
The earliest blogs date from the late 1990s, and many were casually established by individuals to share personal information. A 2003 survey by Perseus Development Corp. revealed that more than 60 percent of blogs on the Internet were inactive or abandoned. But interest has skyrocketed in the past few years. A January 2005 survey by Pew Internet and American Life Project reported that 7 percent of the 120 million U.S. adults who use the Internet say they have created a blog or web-based diary, and 27 percent of Internet users say they read blogs, which represents a 58 percent jump over survey results of less than a year earlier. The interactive features of many blogs are also catching on with 12 percent of Internet users reporting they have posted comments or other materials on blogs. Technorati estimated that there were more than 9.7 million blogs by early 2005, up 100,000 from two years earlier, with about 38,000 more being created every day!
A number of chief executive officers (CEOs) are taking up blogging themselves. A Fortune cover story entitled "Why There's No Escaping the Blog" described how blogs build customer relationships, take the pulse of consumer trends, expose shoddy products (e.g., Kryptonite was forced to announce a program to exchange defective locks after a swarm of bloggers revealed a Bic pen could open them), and support creativity. "Blogs will change your business," said a Business Week cover story "Blogs will Change Your Business," which also announced the debut of the magazine's own blog. …