Why internal blogs don’t make it

Scoble wrote yesterday about the fact that even though there are a growing number of MS people with external blogs (enough to force the move off of GDN), there hasn’t been a commensurate number of internal blogs. In fact, I’d have to say that pretty much most of the internal blogs that I’ve read are a dismal failure, and I’ve dropped every single one out of NewsGator. Robert speculates that the problem has to do with discoverability and linking, but I think the problem goes deeper than that. Specifically, I don’t think internal blogs work very well because:

  1. External blogs make Microsoft people be more open and less insular in the way that they talk about things. Public blogs expose our thoughts to a pretty broad range of people, so we have to assume less and explain more. Internal blogs, on the other hand, allow us to make lots of assumptions about shared knowledge, meaning that internal blogs tend to be more dry and less interesting. Which, in turn, makes them less fun to write.
  2. External blogs expose us to people who don’t agree with what we have to say, to put it mildly. This provokes lively debate and interesting discussions in a way that is harder to replicate internally. I’m not saying we’re the Borg here, but there is a shared culture within the company that makes people a bit more decorous. Decorum also makes people, I think, less likely to rock the boat on internal blogs. This doesn’t make much sense since people inside the company read external MS blogs too, but there you are.
  3. It’s like the old Friends joke where the gynecologist says about his work, “It’s like being a waitress. When you get home, the last thing you want to do is look at another cup of coffee.“ Most of us spend our days talking to and emailing other Microsoft employees. The last thing we want to do is write the equivalent of another memo. It’s much more fun to talk to outside people.
  4. One of the big things that external MS blogs provide is information about what MS is doing. Internally, there are a lot of resources available to employees that often trump blogs. (Not that there isn’t room for improvement, as Scoble notes.) I don’t read Chris Brumme’s or Suzanne Cooke’s excellent blogs anymore because a good amount of the information they talk about is available in internal specifications. And if there’s something piece of information I can’t find, I have the luxury of calling them up or scheduling a meeting with them to get my questions answered.

I’m pretty skeptical whether internal blogs really will ever work. I’m more intrigued as to whether collaborative technologies like wikis can make a big difference. After I get back from some major vacation (more on that later), it’s something I’d like to explore inside of the VB team.

2 thoughts on “Why internal blogs don’t make it

  1. John

    I’ve recently begun following .Net-related blogs so I don’t end up homeless, and also cuz I love computers. I was pleasantly surprised to stumble on so many technical .Net blogs. I think I’m a much more competitive candidate after stalking (I mean studying) key architects and technical minds around the Framework. The Framework has to both win the hearts and minds of developers, and withstand the same level of global scrutiny open source ideas experience. Certainly there are "secrets" within the organization, and always will be. But in the internet context, there is both an upside and downside to "Microsoft Confidental". I venture to say these blogs do more than more formal marketing efforts to achieve Microsoft’s objectives.

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