Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Are business blogs self-revelation zones?




Are business blogs self-revelation zones?

It seems that some business and marketing bloggers are maybe running out of things to talk about.

It seems that maybe they are groping for juicy material.

Or perhaps they're just lonely.

At any rate, some of them are suddenly crying out for the freedom to post very private material on their blogs. Some are even starting "Personal Blogs" as an outlet for such trivia.

I probably seem "old fashioned", "overly professional", or "repressed".

Why?

Because I don't think a business blog is the place to discuss your sexual orientation or appetite.

I don't think a business blogger should add private clutter to their blog.

Private, family, sexual, political, medical, mental health, religious, ethnic, or racial material just gets in the way of the meat of your blog.

If I can't blog for a few days, due to a back problem, I might mention this medical problem. But only because this problem is having an impact on my blogging activity, not because I want everyone to know me on a deeply personal level.

Remember now: I'm talking about Business or Marketing Blogs.

What I say is probably also true for Academic, Scholarly, Scientific, Philosophical, Industrial, and other professional type blogs.

A business blogger, for whom I have extremely high levels of respect and trust, is now campaigning in favor of Perso-Pro blogging. "Perso-Pro" means Personal-Professional, the mixing of private, extraneous material with relevant, practical business information.

I am...flabbergasted.

I am...freaked out.

I am...very perplexed as to What On Earth could be the Purpose of such drivel?

Oh, I'm going to be accused of having a stern, stoic, un-fun, stuffy approach to blogging.

Friends, if you've been reading my blogs for any length of time, you know that's not true. However, if you think I'm some kind of uptight business zealot, trying to force bloggers to strip all personality out of their blogs, kindly email me or post a comment explaining your opinion.

Do I have a personal life? Sort of, I suppose. Not much, though. I spend 70 to 90% of my awake time at the computer.

Let me make this perfectly clear:

I am a business blog consultant and a web usability analyst.

I am not a personal blogger.

My wife (who's a web user observation test administrator, my company's business manager, and an accountant), and I are attending a web development meeting tonight at an architectural firm.

These folks do not want to hear about our house hunting, our family problems, our tastes in music or film. They simply want us to spend the time alloted in discussing improvements to a web site. Period.

It's not that they are old fashioned fuddy duddies. It's simply that they are Professional and have limited time. If I want to blabber about irrelevant personal details, well...

...that's what bars, country clubs, hairdressers, barber shops, friends, and social organizations are for. Right?

I don't even tell my closest friends or family every excruciating detail of my private life.

Why would you post private material in your blog, when the same private material would be inappropriate in a business meeting? It would be a waste of everyone's time.

Your business blog is similar to a business meeting. Readers visit your blog to learn things that might apply to their own blogging or business practices.

Let me ask my readers right now: is a business blog a self-revelation zone?

Do you want me to divulge my tastes in music, food, religion, politics, fashion, films? How would such irrelevant revelations enable you to "feel more comfortable"? How would such revelations assist you in your business, your blogging, or your life?

Am I offended or horrified when a business blogger reveals sexual, dietary, musical, family, or medical details? No.

Do I need to know any of this? Probably not.

Here's my comment that I just posted at the blog of this business blogger who advocates self-revelatory "freedom":


[QUOTE]


All this talk of "Berlin Walls" between personal and professional life betrays a bias in favor of "gushing". I think women may be more prone culturally to do this in a business context.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems that when male business people get together, nearly no personal information is divulged. The private material that might be touched upon would be sports team allegiances or a new truck recently purchased.

The moment a man begins to speak of private, emotional, sexual matters, it is generally considered irrelevant, vulgar, or inappropriate. Plus: weak, insecure, and self-obsessed.

It is not "old fashioned" or "repressive" to be reserved when it comes to such matters, especially in a business context. In fact, it is questionable, to my mind, when a person implies that unless you spill your guts about all your personal tastes and private affairs, you are somehow not honest or credible.

I really have no need to know, nor any interest in, a business blogger's taste in sex, politics, diet, music, films, food, sports, family values, or any other private matters.

If a business blogger has a strong need to express and share these things, I don't condemn them, but I have to wonder why this need exists.

On my blogs, I started displaying a list of music CDs I was listening to, but after about a month, I deleted this list, considering it frivolous, irrelevant, and being a potential turn-off to some potential clients or current readers.

In the military there is a wise "Need to Know" policy. If you have no "Need to Know", you are not going to know. I approve of this. Too many personal details are simply clutter and they dilute the meat of your message. (Strangely mixed metaphors, huh?)


[END QUOTE]


Your opinions, as usual, are appreciated.

Let me know your Personal Detail Policy as a BUSINESS BLOGGER.

Email me today, or post a comment.

Thanks.



EDIT UPDATE:

Take the "Online Professional/Personal Overlap Survey" at:

http://surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=
8179511271127




[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate

;^)

8 comments:

Zafuzoul said...

Steven,

Blogs seem to me - like diaries - to lend themselves to exploration of the personal. I don't feel they are entirely appropriate for a business context as we know business now. There is a certain amount of bullshit that is involved in image making, which is why people don't have PR agents and businesses do.

This isn't to say that "people" blogs aren't filled with BS -- most of the personal blogs I browse through are filled with "look at me" factor ( a form of advertising)... And we've all heard the blogger-gets-publishing-contract success stories. But the best and most well thought-out of the blogs I read are fresh, provocative, iconoclastic and always grab me in the gut. And they seem informed by individual lives, opinions, experiences and such. I haven't run across a blog on policy or sales strategies that could keep me interested long.

To make much ado about nothing, to me blogs are interesting just *because* they are very human; while the concept of business that insists personal information must be excluded from the business regimen is slightly para- or sub-human (just as, you must agree, military approaches in the "civilian" world feel not completely "human").

We are redefining ourselves as bits of information. It's exciting. Emotion is never far behind.

PS - Having made all these claims, I feel I have to add that I suspect any medium so potently heady as to insinuate itself into the imagination of the world at large (including the business world) so quickly and, natch, get it as giddy as a little girl, clearly has something "up its sleeve," let's say. I say that "blogging" may turn out to be the mouse that roared, and that in ten years it will be interesting to see how it's changed the way companies do business with consumers through their blogs (or whether those terms even stand). I predict the model will be substantially diffferent, and not just because of the use of a new medium, obviously. People may become more like companies -- everyone will be selling to one another... The "rules" of "business" will have to soften to accomodate individual quirks in the new model. I'm obviously not the first to fantasize about this... by far. My point tends more, anyway, toward questioning whether we should be laying down hard-and-fast rules about blogging so early on. The practice needs a better name, in my opinion. Other than that, I would welcome any number of business blogs gushing about babies and sales in one breath. And I wonder if the birth and current popularity of blogging isn't a sign that humans are "softening" in general (maybe in order to accomodate for population growth and scarcity of resources) and of a return to the feminine (seriously... it's possible).

steven edward streight said...

Thank you Zafuzoul for spending so much time and effort enriching my blog with your content.

Your thinking is quite sharp and reasonable.

This "blogs lend themselves to the personal" concept has an origin. And that origin is the easy, simple blogging software, exemplified primarily by such services as Xanga, LiveJournal, and Blogger.

Some blog software is actually implemented or hosted within a social, personal sharing environment.

If only geeks and IT guys had the technical skill to create and maintain a blog, there would be far less "lending itself to personal revelations" going on.

I am highly in favor of personal revelations in a personal blog.

I am opposed to LOTS OF personal information in a business or professional blog.

Part of this is quality standards based on business factors.

Another element in my attitude is based on usability characteristics, speed of imparting value and practical info.

A third factor influencing my opinion is probably my personality: I don't like talking, I prefer writing, and I don't like small talk.

I don't care what films a marketing expert likes, nor what they think about the war in Iraq or gas prices or Hillary Clinton.

So I try to recognize the many components that form the aggregated substance of my attitude.

I have always hated "schmoozing" like old school salesmen used to do all the time. Going out for drinks, on the golf course, at company picnics, and all that crap.

I just am more scholarly or concept oriented, more data focused.

Some people are "more comfortable" with blabbermouths. I'm more comfortable with strong quiet types, who, when they do speak, say something profound, useful, relevant, and clever.

So there's room in the blogosphere for all types of legitimate blogs.

I simply declare that in Most Cases, Most of the Time, a business blog should stick to facts, concepts, and insights relevant to the purpose of the blog.

Even top tier, pioneering bloggers bore me when they divulge too much extraneous material about digital cameras they bought, their children's antics, what movies they like best, etc.

I am an independent thinker. I make my own decisions about films, music, politics, etc. Why listen to others who really are not experts on such subjects?

Curiosity? Boredom? Loneliness? Love of small talk?

I happen to hate all wars, but I admire military discipline. I am far more a soldier, even as a pacifist, than I am a schmoozing blabbermouth.

That's just me, I guess.

But as a web usability analyst, I hear the complaint from users: "I can't find the information I want, yet I'm sure it's on this site...somewhere."

And it's often, besides Information Architecture and Navigation problems, the overload of irrelevant details that prevents fast information finding.

Zafuzoul said...

I appreciate each of your points and have come across many sites that are poorly designed and clogged with too much information.

You are quite welcome. I enjoyed enriching your blog with content.

steven edward streight said...

Zaf: it's commenters like you that make the blogosphere go round.

I assert the supremacy of comments over links and over posts.

I could post the most brilliant and profound material on earth, but with no reaction from readers, it adds up to just another unilateral, pulpit pounding, one way broadcast medium.

It's commenters like you that keep blogs interesting, interactive, different from and better than static conventional web sites.

You comment was challenging, well written, and clever, in a complex subject that is hotly debated all over the blogosphere.

I have to take your rational and insightful points into consideration, and I forgot to say this:

Personal blabber blogs do more good than cold, deadly factual, static, corporate fluff, arrogant type web sites.

I cheer on Personal Blogging as being revolutionary, anti-mind control, anti-terrorist, and helping average people rise up to steal power away from the Powers That Pretend To Be.

Even personal drivel in a blog is a wonderful thing, because we're sick and tired of governments and corporations controlling all the media.

Blog on, personal bloggers, blog on.

Zafu said...

Well, your comments on commenters are interesting, I think.

But I wanted to say about business blogging that I don't adopt a position that is too rigid. I don't mean that I *always* want to hear about corporateheads' babies... just that it might be wise for business to make use of the most appealing features of a "new" technology. I return to blogs that make me feel connected to another person in some way. Yeah, your last comment covered it. Write on, bloggers.

Anita Campbell said...

Hi Steven,

Good points, all.

I also want to compliment you on your "user orientation" statement on the right sidebar. I can't tell you how many people (even reasonably Web-savvy ones) ask me questions like "how do I leave a comment" and "what kind of site is this"? I've even had bloggers ask me "what's a permalink?"!!!! And don't even get me started about RSS, which is virtually unfathomable to the unitiated.

I may follow your lead and include similar information on my blogs.

Best,
Anita

steven edward streight said...

Anita: I'm racking my brain trying to remember where I got this idea for User Orientation.

Another blogger said that users often don't know they're on a blog, how a blog differs from a web site, how to post a comment.

Aside from the specific recommmendation by another blogger, I had been astonished how people I knew, friends or friends of my brother, and others, would say things like "I went to your blog, but I couldn't make heads or tails out of it."

I thought: What? What's so hard? What's so confusing about a simple little blog? It's easier to understand than a web site...isn't it?

I still think many people are just not patient, and, in the course of doing web usability tests, I've seen people not scroll.

They actually don't know how to scroll, nor do they know they have to scroll down to see more.

How strange is that?

carrie said...

pretty strange!