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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Blog Rules - A Business Guide To Managing Policy, Public Relations, and Legal Issues

David A. ZimmerPrint

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Blog Rules is a book who’s time has come. Blogs, short for web logs, are taking the web by storm and we as technology purveyors need to embrace them. People are using blogs in order to communicate a variety of topics from personal political statements and personal memoirs to business initiatives and product placement. You name it and you can find a blog on any topic. There is a new blog created every two seconds. Blog owners (bloggers) must understand their responsibilities, liabilities, and the potential abuse of blogs.

Just as we have seen the growth of email and instant messaging (IM), blogging has caught on at a much faster pace than any recent technology. And just as email has been abused by spammers and IM by the spimmers, blogs are being abused by the sploggers. There are inherent risks for supporting or creating blogs and if not careful, the blogger can be severely impacted by unscrupulous people or injured parties.

Blog Rules does a very nice job describing the risks and responsibilities, almost to the point of making me wish I had never created a blog and wanting to pull them down. Just as a person can get flamed in email, blogs can get stormed to the point where it overwhelms the communications lines and machines supporting the blog. Good news travels fast via blogs, but juicy gossip and bad news flood the blogsphere faster than one can disconnect the machine from the web or cut the communication lines.

The key to mitigating the risks and limiting the responsibilities is through written policies and vigilant patrol of blog contents. Blog Rules provide sample policies that companies can adopt to protect themselves and the level of discipline for violators. It also warns about too much policing and editing of the content because it causes negative impact on visitors.

Currently, litigation in blogdom is relatively new and undefined. The default rule is that the owner of the blog is responsible for all content in the blog regardless of the author of the content – whether it is from an official source within the company, an employee, or a visitor’s comment. Blog Rules describes the policies and procedures that a company must enact to protect itself.

Blog Rules is not a “how to” manual for creating or populating a blog. It does not discuss how to drive traffic to the blog or make money from it. It focuses on the “legal” aspects, those points that one must consider when understanding how a blog can be abused.

At first, I found the book to be a bit boring because it wasn’t talking about the technology, how I could gain business from a blog, or how to make ancillary money from it. I was being a technologist. Then it dawned on me that I needed to put on my consultant’s hat and read the book because it became knowledge that my customers needed to know and that I could be the source for that knowledge. Once I made that mental change, the book became very interesting. It is well written and very enlightening. It is certainly one that I will recommend to my clients.

If you are looking for a book which talks about the technology of blogs, this is not it. But if you are looking for a book that helps you save your butt because of the potential abuse of your blog – buy Blog Rules, read it, devour it, memorize it, and then implement its suggestions.