Insight#1: To ‘Open’ or Not to ‘Open’?

12 Jan 2007 (Fri)

“The advances in all of the arts and sciences, indeed the sum total of human knowledge, are the result of the open sharing of ideas, theories, studies and research.” – Terry Vessels

Open Source logoFOR A LONG TIME, I’ve believed in the free culture espoused by Lawrence Lessig and the open sharing of ideas, theories, studies, research advocated by Terry Vessels (above). I’ve therefore downloaded and consumed (installed, used, read, watched, listened…) lots of free software, ebooks, video, podcasts, news reports, in-depth analyses, research studies, etc. on the Internet over the past few years.

Recently, however, I’m beginning to ask myself, “Do I really believe in free culture and free exchange of ideas? Have I’ve been more the taker than the giver?” Granted that I’m normally a frank and open person. Yes, my work has been almost invariably very demanding. And yes, I’ve been blogging from time to time, sharing new things that I’ve learnt. Still, there were times when I’ve hesitated and held back. For example, I’ve kept my research study (begun in 2005) under wraps on the Net until a few days ago. Another example, I’ve been adding lots of useful information to a wiki on a sub-domain for almost two years now. Yet so far, I have chosen not to link them from my blog.

PERHAPS MISTRUST FIRST set in when a Masters program classmate asked quite pertinently some time ago, “But how could we share our research ideas, especially in a public domain? What if someone else were to steal our ideas and claim them as his/her own?”

BG Yeo on BlogTV, conversing with Gayle and BernardOur eminent Trade Minister George Yeo probably spoke for many among us when he said on BlogTV (Episode 12: Big Boys Blogging) a few days ago:

“If they expect me to say things which I’d only say very privately, then they will be very disappointed because the blogosphere is not private space… There are things which you will say to your wife which you would not say to your friends, there are things that you would confide in your teacher which you would not confide even in your classmates. That’s part of life, we all have circles of trust…”

The minister was answering young blogger Gayle Goh’s very frank comments that (1) people who read blogs want fresh new perspectives and a strong, personal voice; and (2) people might find it very difficult to trust what politicians have to say especially when they won’t deviate from the party line at all.

Gayle’s response? She looked quite skeptical, even a little disapproving.

At first, I smiled at her youthful audacity and seeming naivete. Upon reflection however, I think Gayle raised an excellent point. Yes, indeed. Just who, in their leisure, would be interested to read a party manifesto? Even though it comes in blog postings?

Jeremy Wright, in his book Blog Marketing, wrote (paraphrased initially, words in brackets below are mine):

“Most blogs are expected to have these qualities — an authentic voice, honesty, and authority… this holds true even more so for the corporate blog…. This presents unique challenges for business leaders who want to understand blogging (connect with readers), as the concepts of transparency and authencity are not often associated with corporate communications practices….

“Blogging is really about three things:

  • Information: Telling your customers what you’re doing and finding out what they are thinking.
  • Relationships: Building a solid base of positive experiences with your customers that changes them from plain-old consumers to evangelists for your company and products.
  • Knowledge management: Having the vast stores of knowledge within your company available to the right people at the right time.

“Without blogs, company messages can get so filtered by public relations or the media that CEOs and other senior management have decided to talk directly with customers — whether it be in the company’s stores, on the company’s airplanes, or at special events set up specifically for communicating with customers. The value of direct customer feedback is obvious, and blogs provide that [one-to-one and daily] on a global scale.”

In “Chapter 3: The Power of Blogs for Business”, Wright wrote:

Be Real: The Scoble Story

Robert Scoble's photo“…sometimes the most important person to be blogging in your company may not be an executive. For Microsoft… the most important blogger is arguably Robert Scoble… Scober started blogging before he joined Microsoft — his existing blog was actually a major force in landing him the job. In his role as a technical evangelist, Scoble has to be both authoritative and honest.

“One of Scoble’s rules is to tell the truth, even if it means admitting that a competitor’s product is better or if it means Microsoft is doing something wrong. This can be scary for an executive to do — though Sun’s Schwartz does it quite successfully (another story in the book). For Scoble, this comes naturally, and the net effect is that he has become one of the most influential people in a company with more than 55,000 employees. The external effect is that Microsoft now has a trusted voice who will give the straight and passionate answer to even the hardest questions.”

Finally, BG Yeo himself had observed in the first part of the BlogTV show:

“It’s strange. The emotion connected with blogging is very different from that connected with say, giving a speech or addressing an audience. For some reason, there’s an intimacy associated with going into the blogosphere which you don’t associate with a public meeting.”

Hmmm…. Can BG Yeo really maintain a public, party-line stance and yet achieve that “intimacy” with young people in Singapore? What do you think?

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Posted by J.K. in *Insights, Business, My Rock, Open Source, Politics, Possibilities, Problems, Reliability, Technology | View Comments |

  • Daisy

    I have learnt a lot today; shortcuts to what I have been doing through longer surfing in net and blog. Definitely will help to improve in our work. Got to take time to digest and review and practise soas to be familiar with the features and to use them often.

    Hope to learn more tomorrow.


  • Peter Rawsthorne

    A very provocative post. I agree with all that is written here. I particulalry like the statement about circles of trust. I would say that I follow this. What I put into the bogosphere is what I feel comfortable ‘giving away’, and like you I have projects that stay in my ‘walled garden’.

  • Chew Wee

    As a newcomer to the blogging scene, I can’t help but feel a bit of “apprehension” putting my comments on the blogsphere. I find it hard to just let my thoughts and emotions flow freely (the appeal of blogging to me) while being wary of the possible implications as the comments are subject to different interpretations when viewed from different perspectives. But then again, that could be another appeal of blogging…the “surprise” element of what a simple comment could lead up to.

  • FilmsMan

    Definitely will help to improve in our work. Got to take time to digest and review and practise soas to be familiar with the features and to use them often.

  • Paul

    Chew wee,

    I agree with your thoughts.

    If you put yourself out there, you are more subject to harsh criticism.

  • watchat

    Me too!
    I agree with your thoughts.
    I particulalry like the statement about circles of trust. I would say that I follow this. What I put into the bogosphere is what I feel comfortable ‘giving away’, and like you I have projects that stay in my ‘walled garden’.

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