Posted by: lunacouture | February 25, 2008

Week 5 Response

Week 5 Blog 

Summary of Readings 

The assigned readings from the book Naked Conversations by Scoble and Israel, touch on many important issues relating to blogging.  The authors discuss principles of integrity and some ethical aspects of blogging.  They suggest that blogs should be truthful and avoid hyperbole.  They also remind bloggers to keep their writing relatively straightforward, since people are not likely to engage in lengthy readings.  One of the real world examples provided in the book is the L’Oreal blog created to market their line of Vichy products.  Initially, the blog appeared as too much of a fabrication to be deemed credible by the public, which soon began speaking out against the company.  The Vichy cosmetics were only taken seriously when bloggers started providing accurate information about the product, and giving customers honest feedback on the blog.  

While Israel and Scoble emphasize remaining honest when blogging, they say that it’s important for blogs to stand out on the web. They suggest that interesting blogs express opinions and take on a clear stance.  The idea behind this notion is that readers will be disinterested in reading blogs that are emotionally detached.  Israel and Scoble point out that blogs are more likely to come about during times of crisis.  They suggest people find ways to use blogs on a regular basis so they will be better prepped if a crisis does occur.  The authors also suggest personalizing a blog as much as possible, so that the virtual blogosphere can seem more human to the readers.   Possible options could include adding photographers or contact information, so that bloggers can be accessible to the public.  The authors also discuss the advantages and importance of using a program such as RSS to read blogs collectively and keep track of updates relating to issues of interest.  This system also makes it easier to connect back to other related blogs or URL’s.   

The authors also mention how blogging for a company can have its consequences.  Employees have gotten fired for writing about something that the company would have rather not disclosed.  Israel and Scoble suggest that prior to mixing in blogs with office related material, it is important to have a clear idea of the rules in the specific working environment.  It may best to clear any doubts related to blogging with the boss, prior to publishing anything that relates to the company.  While Scoble and Israel encourage company blogging, they suggest approaching it cautiously.  Even a simple sentence may suffice to throw the blogosphere in frenzy.             

For the blogs we have been following this week, GigaOM had several interesting updates about the digital industry.  The most interesting component of their blog this week was tracking the updates relating to the cell phone service providers.  The blogs reported that the three major mobile phone providers seem to be competing against each other to see who can promote the best unlimited calling rates to their consumers.  So far, each has offered unlimited minutes and text messaging for only $99 per month.  Om Malik suggests that this new plan will probably cause them to loose more money in the long run.  He suggests that people who are likely to switch to this plan are the ones that typically spend more money, while people who only use telephone for a necessity will continue to spend the same amount on more standardized plans.  This in turn may cause the companies to collect less from their top phone consumers.             

Similarly, this week The Washington Post tech blog had several updates regarding the phone providers entering the market. On February 19th Kim Hart reported that the major carriers decided it was time for them to go digital, rather than analog.  This upset people living in locations were the telecommunications is less developed because they cannot receive digital signals.  That same day, the blog reports that after the Verizon announcement was made that it was going to offer a flat unlimited rate for phone calls, other cell phone providers started doing the same.   AT&T immediately followed offering the same deal to its consumers, after hearing Verizon’s annoucement. Only a little while later on that same day, T-Mobile also announced the same thing: unlimited calls and text messaging for a flat rate of $99 per month.             

In this week’s PaidContent by Joseph Weisenthal, I found most interesting the story about on google having made a deal with the Clevaland Clinic to make healthcare records accessible online.  I had heard that people were trying to get their healthcare information available to them for sometime now, but had not heard of any recent updates that indicated it was going to happen. The PaidContent blogs in October 2007 and August of 2007, reported that Microsoft and Google have been competing against each other for establishing the biggest network of online health services to the public.  This past week the announcement came out about Google’s parternership with the clinic.  I foresee a rapid, competitive growth in this sector .  

 Analysis

The first item that struck me while doing these readings was figuring how a company blogger finds an appropriate balance between writing coherently about an issue, while pleasing the company.  A blogger can be as tactful as possible and yet still displease the company just by writing something about a blog. I think in this particular sector there is much less freedom of speech than what you would see for personal blogging.  This is understandable to an extent, because companies are worried about putting their company in a compromising position. I think this is definitely easier said than done because some companies are not open to blogging.  My feeling is that many companies view the idea of publishing something related to their company on the web as a privacy violation, rather than viewing it as a means of gaining exposure.  While, some companies have understood how to use blogging in a savvy manner to further their business, but I have a feeling that a good number of businesses still haven’t grasped the concept.             

Similarly, I find it nearly impossible for companies to blog without really becoming prone to marketing what their selling. The authors state that this should not be the aim of a blog, but I just have a hard time seeing companies do otherwise.  For the most part companies would be inclined to post blogs to diffuse information more quickly regarding their new products or promotions.  I don’t think company blogs are suitable for every industry, as having a blog.  Some companies may actually benefit by not having a blog or by making it emerge with a more neutral tone.  For instance, the book gives the example of Apple and Google being good companies, with not so great blogs.   While I do not doubt this, I think there is a deliberate intention on the part of these companies to keep their blogs not particularly interesting.  They are probably concerned with preserving the best interest of their company and are worried that posting a blog may create unfavorable public opinion.  If negative aspects of the company emerged through company blogs it may damage the company’s name.            

Another item mentioned in the book humanizing a blog site.  They suggested posting pictures and contact information of yourself online.  This definitely has immense benefits because a blogger can essentially end up networking with anyone from anywhere around the world, and may be even end up pursuing great opportunities.  However, it is difficult to imagine that everything with regards to posting information on the web is in everyone’s best interest.  There are too many issues that would make me skeptical about posting my information for everyone’s use.  I think it depends on a number of factors, including your age, gender, and the type of occupation you have.  Some companies don’t even allow their employees to join social networking sites like myspace or facebook.  Also, it could be best giving an alternative phone number that is different from your personal one.  In this way, just so you can still put yourself out there without suffering privacy violations on your personal line.           

With regards to the blogs for this week, I find it silly for the mobile phone companies to take on the same tactic for winning over competitors.  If anything, I would try to come up with something different from the other cell phone providers in order to stand out.  This would at least make the company look more original to the public.  I agree with the Om Malik that this tactic will probably backfire on them rather than help them generate more money.  I cannot see very many people that would be interested in spending $99 dollars a month for having unlimited cell phone service.  I think it’s hard to imagine that a young people will be willing to pay that much for a monthly cell phone service, provided they use cell phones as a necessity for communication.          

As far as Google’s collaboration to make health records accessible to patients, I am very curious to see what will happen as time goes on.  I foresee the diffusion of online healthcare information developing quickly.  I’m sure that several new companies will arise to compete and gain the rights of making healthcare records accessible online. Who would have thought a few years ago that Google would have been one of the pioneers in this area? While I think it’s great and definitely shows a level of progression, I also predict that there will be some significant privacy issues.  For instance, computer hackers may easily be able to access other people’s health records.  While it is important that people have access to their records, it must be insured that they have no way of editing the information contained on their records.  I think these are hurdles that can be easily overcome and won’t prove to be a problem once the system has a chance to develop.    

Synthesize

If I were to relate this week’s readings to the readings done over the past couple of weeks, I would say there is a lot of overlap amongst them.  All the readings are concerned with blogging and trying to teach to the public how they can use these new methods of communication to better their careers and lives.  Idealistically, this is a beautiful concept, but I do no think it can work so simply at a practical level.  What I see in these readings is a lack of communication to receivers that are amateurs in the digital field.  Regardless of their age, many people are still very frightened by the online world because it’s not something tangible they can identify.  It is fear that stops many people from being able to use the online world to their advantage.            

I feel that both Naked Conversations and We the Media give some very good advice about why joining the digital conversation is important.  However, both books should have reached out to readers a little more.  I think they assume readers know too much and skip over some of the basics.  I think audiences will start to feel more comfortable about the digital environment when they realize what lies behind it.  As surprising as this may sound, many people nowadays still have no clue what blogs are.  Also, it would be best to reassure people on the nature of blogging.  I feel that many of them still view it as being something ominous that may compromise their privacy.  The root of the problem as to why people are not using blogs as much as they should (and this includes companies) is because it is still unfamiliar terrain for them.  The best way to remedy their skepticism is through education.          

Another feeling I have is that blogging is used comparatively more in the US than throughout the rest of the world.  That’s not to say that foreign countries don’t also enjoy blogging.  It’s just that US society seems to use technology and media to communicate more than most other countries.  Other cultures still value very much the personal approach and can’t really conceive of having a very big conversation online.  Along these lines, some cultures don’t even have the capital to own a computer in their household, which consequently makes the advancement of blogging and other processes more difficult to achieve.  Naked Conversations did a good job at alluding to this and pointing out the various differences amongst countries.  We the Media gave a good explanation of how violating freedom of speech in some nations creates an inhibition to the dispersion of blogs.  I think we will see changes all over the world in years to come.  However, right now both authors would agree that business negotiations can occur much more swiftly with some countries as opposed to others.    

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