Clay Shirky says everyone is coming.
But it's not quite everyone. And not all of the time, either.
This morning, I took a look at Computer Weekly's awards scheme for bloggers working in the IT/technology industry. It's a half-decent piece of recognition for those citizen journalists who have taken the means of production and distribution into their own hands.
Credit for running the awards should go to the editors of a trade paper that practices Jeff Jarvis's maxim: "Cover what you do best and link to the rest."
Now you'd think that Britain's large community of IT professionals would have thrown up a vibrant community of bloggers. They're familiar with the tools, they know the form -- what could be more obvious?
Think again. Actually, with a few wonderful exceptions, the standard of blogs shortlisted on Computer Weekly's site is fairly poor.
After five years in which blogging tools have been widely available, there's less to show for it in this B2B sector than I expected and hoped for.
Are other sectors different? Is there a vibrant blogging scene among hairdressers, fishermen, engineers or probation officers? I don't know, but it would be interesting to find out. . .
In the meantime, I'm going to fall back on a recent essay by Web 2.0-watcher Suw Charman:
Every now and again I'll be talking to a client or a journalist or some random person at a conference, and they'll ask me if I think that social software is a fad. Invariably they'll have anecdotal evidence of some company, somewhere, who tried to start up blogs or a wiki inside their business, and it failed. That, they say, is proof that social software has nothing to offer business, and that if we give it a few more years it will just go away. Quod erat demonstrandum.
The problem with this interpretation is that these failures - which are common, but largely unexamined and unpublished because no one likes to admit they failed - are part and parcel of the process of negotiating how we can use these new tools in business. They are inevitable and, were they discussed in public, I'd even call them necessary as they would allow us to learn what does and doesn't work.
Sadly, we don't often get a glimpse inside failed projects so we end up making the same mistakes over and over until someone, somewhere sees enough bits of the jigsaw to start putting them together.
Well put. It's axiomatic that we don't talk much about our failures. But there's a lot to learn from them.
I think it's fair to say that IT professionals don't blog interestingly and in great numbers because of obstacles that now seem obvious, but which seemed minor a few years ago. Things like employment contracts, the use of Google by HR professionals, time constraints -- and the likelihood that very large numbers of ordinary people do not find their jobs sufficiently inspiring to want to write about them.
The upshot is that trade magazine publishers have better things to worry about than being superceded by coalitions of readers-turned-writers. By the same token, it will be tough for them to reduce their costs by relying on user-generated content. . .