The Case for Internal Blogs

While I don’t subscribe to the mantra that blogs are a revolutionary idea that will change the face of media and information sharing, blogs are a useful tool. Blogs are a great way to publish and share information with other people. A lot of organizations are jumping on the blog train as well. One of my favorite sites, blogs.sun.com, is a great example of how public blogs can be used for informational and PR purposes.

Another tool that organizations are starting to use is internal blogs, blogs only accessible to certain groups, usually employees, in order to have a free exchange of ideas and information. Recently, a story surfaced about a debate going on in an Intel internal blog. While this breach showcases that even with internal blogs you need to be careful, it doesn’t diminish the idea as a whole.

Last month, a Google employee was essentially fired for his blog, which focused on his Google experience. While a lot of people cried foul, I don’t really see the issue. People need to be careful about what kind of information they disclose on a blog. While no trade secrets were exchanged, I guess Google didn’t particularly care for the image the new hire was fostering or the amount of interest the blog had received. While the decision seemed a little heavy handed, it seems like a pretty dumb for a recent hire of a company coming off an IPO to go blabbing on about his new job on a daily basis.

Public blogs are not a proper forum for posting your opinion about your work environment, but its one of many possible use cases for an internal blog. I would love to to give my 2 cents on a variety of processes, issues, and strategy concerning my employer. Unfortunately, I have no viable medium for expressing my opinions.

An internal blog, provides a mechanism for information sharing that goes beyond department, unit, and physical boundaries. It works for all types of communication paths. In the case of a CEO, its a great way to provide top -> down communication and get feedback from people whom he/she would have never encountered before. In my case, it would be a down -> up communication path and everything in between.

Some people might say, “Well thats great Alex, but why don’t you just e-mail person X.” Blogs are not a person2person tool. Posting on a blog is a person -> audience tool where the audience can choose to listen and chime back. Lets say I have a an idea for how to change the job posting system in HR. What is my typical course of action for sharing my idea today? I could send some random e-mail to an HR person, but I don’t know if I would feel comfortable with that route. Most likely, the person would think, “Who the hell is this kid to tell me a better way to do something?” Another route, I could take is to talk about it with my boss or my bosses boss, but the only way such a route would be successful is for them to really embrace the idea. The fate of an idea would hinge on the opinion of one person.

Internal blogs due away with the reliance on the opinion of one person to filter ideas from the bottom of an organization to upper management. An internal blog is not only a method for discussing ideas, its a tool for recognition and filtering. A case for recognition, would be that others can chime in via a blog, about the job posting system. If quite a few people chimed in, it might build enough traction for people in the right positions to take notice. It might also show that my idea was groundless. Either way, its a win-win situation for the organization.

I’m not saying this tool would be bring an overnight change in the way organizations share information. The effectiveness of any tool is what you make of it. In the case of an internal blog, people might not post, people might not read, or managers might not care. However; there are many scenarios where an internal blog could lead to an explosion in internal information sharing, where typical barriers to communication are smashed.