Understanding the blogging ecosystem

On the topic of blogging, it seems worthwhile to talk a little about the blogging ecosystem, both for discussion and future reference (things change fast!). Like an ecosystem, blogging is a feedback mechanism, is most useful when you understand what is being said about you on the blogosphere, and unlike an ecosystem giving freely is more beneficial.

Like an ecosystem, blogging is essentially a feedback mechanism.

Blogging, and for the most part Web 2.0, is about conversation. Conversation where the status quo is a level playing field involving anyone who wishes to partake in the conversation.

Anyone who has something to say about Dell can now do so on the recently launched Dell blog (so long as they abide by the reasonable rules laid out by Dell) – which if you think about it is not something that has happened a lot in recent corporate history.

The interaction moves from a one way, top down soapbox, to a two way bottom up conversation, which also introduces the concept of “the wisdom of the crowds” and “the long tail”.

Like a niche ecosystem, the players perform better when they understand what other players are doing.

Because the ecosystem creates this communication channel that essentially exists worldwide (also known as the blogosphere), if you are blogging about anything important to you and your many stakeholders, it makes sense to keep track of what other people about you on the blogosphere, both on your own blog (through comments) as well as on the internet at large.

But just because you write something about a new product release on your blog, doesn’t mean that people will comment about it on your blog. Trackbacks, although sometimes the spawn of the comment spam devil, are useful as a tool to monitor the conversation outside of your back yard. So too are services like Pubsub, Google Blog Search and Technorati, which spider blogs to track the conversation and it’s associated content.

This is not about ego and shouldn’t be mistaken as such – it’s about keeping track of what people are saying so that it can be reacted upon. When you react to something and the result is positive, then the usefulness of this feedback mechanism becomes truly apparent.

Unlike an ecosystem, the more you give freely, the more you stand to benefit.

Traditional thinking says that it’s not a good idea to give things away freely, but on the blogosphere an open and honest stance is far more beneficial than a closed one, and also more likely to win you friends and gain you influence.

Following on from the product release metaphor, if your stance is open, honest and engaging, you’re more likely to win the support of people using and evaluating your software, thus feeding back positively into your product release cycle.

It’s a difficult place to get to if your company culture isn’t geared towards public displays of information and conversation, but when you do get there the price is almost certainly worth the effort so long as you pay attention to the blogosphere, and react to the conversation.