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Online community rules Yobbo’s View top blog

SAM Ward, a 27-year-old Edith Cowan University business student, was last week awarded the prize for Best Western Australian Blog.

His website, A Yobbo’s View, was a hit with online voters in the inaugural Australian Blog Awards. His blog is a mix of irreverent humour, rants against the quality of Qantas’ in-flight service and biting right-wing political comment.

Now with their very own Australian awards to rival the established, US-based ‘Blog-gies’, it seems blogs, commonly shortened from ‘web log’, have officially arrived in Australia.

In its most basic form, a blog is a text-based website that uses time and date-stamped entries to link to and comment on news and other websites.

In 1998 there were just a handful in existence. In 2004, blogs are numbered in the millions, with 1,000 new blogs created daily worldwide.

A blog is only limited by the creativity of its owner. Online journals are popular, so too are political blogs and blogs on war (whose authors are known as warbloggers). Bloggers use their sites to link to web pages and other blogs that interest them and their often-loyal readership.

Mr Ward’s decision to start his own blog came after reading the more established blogs in cyber-space. He started his in January last year and said he usually updates once or twice a day.

 “Sometimes if I’m too busy I forget about it for a couple of days, but I aim to post one or two items per day,” Mr Ward said.

In addition to providing a soapbox to express his views, Mr Ward said blogs were an excellent communication tool.

“It is a good way to keep track of issues and also keep in contact with people, especially with the comments system. You can basically run it like a publicly readable email,” he said.

“People comment on posts and other people then comment on the comments.”

It’s no surprise the business sector has taken an interest in this inexpensive, easy-to-use communication tool.

US columnist Kathleen Goodwin coined the term ‘business blog’ or ‘b-blog’ 12 months ago. She said b-blogs could offer organisations a platform where information and opinion could be shared among employees, customers, partners, and prospects in a way previously impossible – a two-way, open exchange.

As individuals become more familiar with blogs and other online communications, it is no surprise that the way people communicate at work has been affected.

Edith Cowan University communications and information technology lecturer Justin Brown said students approached online learning tools in a “blog-like manner”.

 “We use bulletin boards heavily at ECU because most of the teaching is geared towards online content delivery,” he said.

 “Students tend to use them in a very blog-like manner. During semester, I might check the bulletin boards every half hour. And if I post something, in two minutes a student has put a response up”

Mr Brown said blogs could offer advantages over email as an intra-office communication tool.

“I think it could be a lot more effective than email because of the immediacy and because everyone can read it at the same time, rather than the case where you get an email and form a response, and as you’re doing that, someone else is writing the same thing,” he said.

“In business I can imagine a blog would be extremely useful as an informal communication tool.”

The buzz on blogs in the US is that they are also valuable marketing tools. The ability to click on links and make comments is boosting the interactivity of e-newsletters and other marketing materials.

Image 7 managing director Brad Entwistle said blogs could be useful for the enhancement of already established relationships with customers or clients.

But it was a ‘pull’ marketing technique and the receiver has to want to actively click on the link, he said.

“Weblogs can be useful, but they are niche. I think if you try to apply them to every part of the business, then that’s when you’ll fail,” Mr Entwistle told WA Business News.

He said his staff used ProjectForum, a freely available online tool, to communicate with colleagues and clients.

 “It’s something I use everyday. We use it internally as a type of intranet. I can post files and talk with clients in New Zealand or Singapore or Indonesia.”

Pretzel Logic director Steve Pretzel acknowledged that a blog may be the answer for small businesses that cannot afford proprietary software, but he stressed that there must still be processes for inputting and outputting data, even if the communication tool was an informal one such as a blog.

 “Staff must be able to locate and read the entire comment thread relating to a subject or project,” Mr Pretzel said.

“Any gains an organisation hoped to achieve by using a blog could be lost if data is hard to find or inaccurate.”

 

“It’s something I use everyday. We use it internally as a type of intranet.”

-         Brad Entwistle

 

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