with the success of blogging as a communications medium within bona fide communities, it was really only a matter of time before management at traditionally non-community centric companies decided that it would be a great idea to get their people blogging. their idea seems to be that if you blog, they will read. instant community (aka "audience"), just add water!
as more and more blatantly corporate blog sites appeared, i found myself feeling somehow irked by them. they felt .. artificial. why weren't these people blogging prior to being given a mandate to do so? and it's obvious that they have been told to do so because, well, they often say as much in the first couple of blogs they write and because all of a sudden their entire department will be blogging using software on a corporate server.
the fact that they felt artificial and therefore irksome puzzled me. why should it matter? i've slowly come to the conclusion that it's because it's not real communication any more than advertisements on T.V. are real communication. sure, they tell you something about the product and maybe even the people behind them but it's not really a free flow of information. it's not about trying to build a community, it's trying to push a set of messages out to an audience. an audience.
it's taking a medium of honest discourse (from the banal to interesting, just like real life conversation) and turning it into marketing. it would be like discovering the person who just struck up conversation with you at a coffee shop was trying to sell you something; it's a betrayal of trust in the context of human engagement by making it into a commercial and inhuman transaction.
this has triggered a cascade of questions in my head: will people actually read this stuff on a regular and ongoing basis? we know people will read blogs on the planet.*.org, their friend's blogs, political blogs or ones by industry observers offering their opinions like "Joel on Software" ... but these are blogs that arose from within a community; they are a reflection, perhaps even a reflex, of an existing community. if that existing body of community doesn't exist, are blogs sustainable? can blogging create a community, or at least an audience, that will remain in numbers large enough to justify the investment of employee time and leaking of project information?
which comes first, blog or community? does it matter? will corporate blogging implode in a shower of non-results and leave just the community driven blogs, or will it become a mainstay of PR life? will i continue to be irked endlessly by the co-opting of community communication as yet another means to propagandize from the corporate pulpit? if CompanyX's blogs fail but CompanyY's succeed, what will that reveal about those companies? how does a company's blogging success or failure map to their business and marketting success and failure, if at all? will non-tech, non-political companies ever set up blogs? if corporate blogs succeed in creating audience, will they eventually render the whole medium oversaturated and underdeveloped content wise? in other words, will the "blogosphere" (what a STUPID word) be "televisioned"?