Category Archives: Technical Communicatin

Assessing the Value of Corporate Blogs: A Social Capital Perspective

The following co-authored article appeared here: 0361-1434/$26.00 © 2010 IEEE
2 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON PROFESSIONAL COMMUNICATION, VOL. 53, NO. 4, DECEMBER 2010

—CRAIG BAEHR, MEMBER, IEEE, AND KONSTANZE ALEX-BROWN
Abstract—This three-phased study examines corporate blog use, specifically the impact and value of blogs on organizational social capital and knowledge sharing at Dell Inc., a global computer manufacturer. The impact of social-mediated Web 2.0 technologies on organizational social capital has received limited attention in scholarship,possibly because of the inevident connection to measurable economic value and newness of the technology. Our findings indicate the corporate blog can be used as a sustainable forum leading to a shared understanding of organizational roles, increased sense of group cohesiveness, improved work processes, and fostering of professional and personal ties between employees in the organization.

Knowledge is embedded in the collective workforce of an organization and is highly dependent on human interaction to share and attribute value to that information. With the increasing level of information a worker encounters on a daily basis, the task of capturing tacit knowledge, properly contextualizing it, and distributing it across an organization has stretched the limits of human capacity. With the emergence of participatory technologies, organizations have invested in software and web-based tools for information and knowledge capturing, sharing, and reuse. They also allow for improved interaction, collaboration, and accessibility of structured and unstructured data in varying degrees of formality. Using these tools to capture and disseminate organizational knowledge can depend greatly on the social capital of the organization, through the informal relationships, networks, and communities formed by its workers.

Many corporations are using blogs, wikis, knowledge bases, and social networking sites as routine parts of their business operations. Examples such as Jammer, Twitter, Facebook, and various Enterprise Content Management Systems (ECMs), such as MOSS 2007, that include blogging and microblogging applications are ubiquitous in today’s workplace. Rockley notes that ECMs have evolved to include management of unstructured content and data such as email, blog posts, wiki entries, and even personal profile pages of social networking sites [1]. Manovich adds that metadiscourse and metacontent, such as tag clouds and social bookmarking capabilities, have also become important parts of these technologies [2]. Collaborative authoring is also collaborative knowledge sharing—along with legacy content, we have come to expect feedback, cross-posting, discussion, and comments as an essential part of the genre.

Blogs, as social networking tools, have become widely used in social and corporate settings. Blogs are websites (often participatory) that feature regular commentary and related content on a specific subject, which is usually presented in reverse chronological order. Blogs can contain textual, visual, multimedia, and even interactive content. Blogs have been studied as social genres that allow individuals and groups to share dialog on a specific subject. Miller and Shepherd argue the social blog genre has value through its immediacy, formal features, brevity, self-expressive content, and community development and involvement [3].While the blog’s initial function was primarily social
in nature, more recently, organizations have begun using blogs as networking and information-sharing tools, internally for employees and externally for customers and vendors. In organizational contexts, corporate blogs are more focused on knowledge sharing and information reuse. They emphasize efficient information delivery to large numbers of individuals and serve as a common knowledge
base. Tørning states that this type of blog serves as a “knowledge repository for getting information and for learning processes” [4, p. 2]. Workers must intrinsically invest in this communication technology, use it, contribute to its development, and see potential value in their efforts, from either an individual or an organizational perspective. The resulting products can create social capital within an organization, which connects the value of knowledge sharing to its impact on organizational efficiency and, ultimately, innovation. From a management perspective, integration and sustainability of these information products depend heavily on measuring and proving proving their bottom-line value to the organization.

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What’s technical about TC (Dobrin) – A response

What are the implications of Dobrin’s definition of tech comm for our identity as a profession of ‘tech writers’ or a discipline of ‘tech comm’? In what ways might or might not Slack’s ‘articulation’ (Thayer) be a workable response?

Dobrin’s definition of tech comm attempts to give technical writers organizational power by affording them the status of subject matter expert. “Technical writing is writing that accommodates technology to the user.” Curiously, but quite fittingly, Dobrin mentions the fact that the verb allows for syntactic wiggleroom in the invertibility of the direct and indirect objects. I would like to add one more facet of the verb ‘to accommodate’, it implies active contribution on the part of the accommodator and that clearly aligns itself with Slack’s definition of articulation. The technical communicator negotiates meaning with the information sender and the information receiver. This is an active process that clearly presumes subject matter expertise. Subject matter expertise is perceived as value added and, thus, conveys organizational power. With organizational power comes recognition and influence, both invaluable to implement progress and change. Continue reading What’s technical about TC (Dobrin) – A response