Today, a reader asked me if the thoughts that I had expressed in a post from this past May, More Thoughts on Blogging, had changed any. In the post, I expressed some doubts and confusion about what is appropriate upon which to comment given that blogs seem to me to be inherently personal and informal in nature. Blogs have become powerful tools that people can use to get their opinions, thoughts and ideas out to the public at large. There is little to stop people from complaining about various things in life they don’t like. They can make up stories, lie about themselves or others and/or try to publicly malign people they do not like. While I do not think that the majority of the population will do this, there are several instances where people started blogs in order to tell the world about perceived injustices perpetuated by companies. Despite the fact that companies have felt that the bloggers posts were blatant truths or misrepresentations, they paid money or offered incentives to the blogger in order to have the blogs or posts deleted. In addition, there have been recent cases where companies have asked bloggers to remove posts in which bloggers expressed an opinion that companies have found threatening to their businesses. What is offensive? What types of comments can harm a companies business? Where is the line between free speech and libel?
What does all of this mean to me? I’m still not sure. I’m still not overly comfortable with the format. I censor myself far more often than I would like. I think that people need to be careful about what they publicly publish – in whatever format whether officially or personally. Can a blog be an official avenue for an institution or library? Definitely. I think that the overall character of official blogs might be different – there might not be as many comments or conversations. I do think that institutions or libraries should have a policy in place regarding blogging. Many institutions control web branding and content – and blogs should fall under this category. I would like to use blogs in the library where I work for library news, recent acquisitions and some other things. However, the place where I work does not have any policies regarding blogging nor does it have any blogging software. I doubt that our marketing/web people would approve the use of web-based, outsourced blogs that do not have the institutions domain name nor have the appropriate branding.
In direct response to Ross’s comment, I do still believe that blogs are much more informal in nature than official web sites, publications, etc. Having thought about it, I think this could actually be an advantage for an organization that could lead to wider participation from constituents. Informal communications often put people more at ease than formal venues. Properly done, the use of blogs might actually be able to help an organization get input from all levels. Overall, I think that blogs will have a dramatic impact on the way in which we communicate information. Good luck with the blog project Ross! I would be interested to hear how it goes. I am angling to get people at my institution moving to get policies in place and make a decision about blog software.