What is a blog? How would you define an industry analyst blog? What separates blogs from the other online destinations and channels published by the ICT analyst community? Is a blog still a blog without an RSS feed? comments? Is an analyst blog tied to his or her expertise? Yesterday, I asked ten or so analysts and consultants in the US and UK to share their thoughts on what is a blog. They responded with free-range thinking on that and beyond: what is an analyst blog, why do analysts blog, and why does anyone care. Good stuff. Here’s a rough cut of my notes.
My intent is to overhaul the criteria for the Tekrati analyst blogs directory. Already, the conversation offers a rich perspective on grounds for deciding which blogs are listed and why they might be tossed out down the road.
I queried analysts and consultants that are successful bloggers: each has a track record as an individual blogger, and has earned credibility as a thought leader within a professional community of practice.
The analysts are: Carl Howe of Blackfriars Communications, Mike Gotta of Burton Group, Alan Pelz-Sharpe of CMS Watch, Charlene Li or Josh Bernoff (Josh responded) of Forrester Research, Dale Vile of Freeform Dynamics, James Governor of RedMonk, John Blossom of Shore Communications, and Stowe Boyd of The Brannan Street Irregulars.
Again, what follows is a rough cut of the discussion threads. I’m pulling excerpts out of the conversational flow, to make for faster reading. More, and perhaps a little more polished, next week.
What is and what is not a blog?
James Governor offers:
1. RSS or ATOM feed
2. no firewall
3. written by named user/s
4. it’s on other people’s blogrolls
Jonny Bentwood agrees with the first two points; sees 3 as more a best practice or preference, and also pushes back on 4.
Dale Vile agreed with points 1 - 3, and adds: “In addition, it might be stating the bleeding obvious, but the ability for people to comment without registration should also be in the list.”
Mike Gotta raises the point of whether blogs are open or are “gated” and require client access: “I think this type of directory should be for blogs or other analyst-associated social media vehicles that are open and community-centric without a lot of strings attached.” Tekrati readers have been rather vocal on this point, too.
Mike and Josh Bernoff both suggest including update frequency. This is another hot point in correspondence with Tekrati readers. The new rev of the directory shows latest posts at a glance, and the actual posts on the detail page. (A blog graveyard might be an interesting addition — instead of a quiet delete.) Josh’s inputs include:
- Publicly available
- Updated at least 10 times per year
- Written in the first person — meaning personal, and expressing a point of view (POV)
He makes a good point: “If you don’t update it at least 10 times a year, it’s not frequent enough to be a blog.”
Disagreeing with James Governor, he reasons that RSS and comments are central to a good blog, but perhaps not mandatory.
Erik poses two criteria to be considered blogs:
- inherently and consistently personal, whether written by a group or one person. (POV)
- formatted as journals on a specific topic — unlike traditional websites. “Meaning you’ve got the main page featuring the past x number of articles, then you’ve got your sorting options (tag categories, years and months)”
Jen McClure disagrees on “personal” being requisite. She points out that blogs aren’t always personal; many businesses and organizations are using the blogging technology platform for their primary corporate website presence, in place of an e-newsletter format , or for special promotions or events. She also made a comment that pulls together many of the different thoughts expressed on what is a blog, and underscores the importance of the softer questions below:
“A blog is more than just the sum of its technological parts - as the important thing is what the technology allows, e.g., instant publication and distribution, linking, commenting.”
What is an analyst blog - and, who is an analyst?
Jonny Bentwood says decide who is an analyst, first. Then sort out the blog criteria.
When deciding who is/not an analyst, Mike Gotta says use company affiliation, basic credentials as an analyst within a sector, but — “I would not want to see something that is exclusionary or reinforce a particular status-quo.”
What is an analyst+blog?
I suspect that analyst salespeople, vendor sales and marketing people, and IT people all have fundamentally different expectations of analyst blogs. Makes answering the question an interesting exercise.
Carl Howe suggests that analyst blogs could resonate with industry research and advisory values, and offers these criteria to kick off the conversation. BTW, he characterizes these as “fairly hard nosed” and not intended to offend:
- Is there accountability? “An analyst is one who is willing to attach her or his personal reputation to their analyses.”
- Is there data to support the point of view?
- Is there original synthesis and insight?
- Is there either prescription or prediction? “Ok, so the blog tells me 1+1=3 — so what? Should I do something about that, like go back and rebalance my checkbook with this new math?”
Some of the other contributors do find these restrictive; I don’t, unless a blog is truly personal. Then again, I am overly jaded on link bait and trolls — a side affect of perusing too many press release and post titles — and I’m not refering to vendor content.
By contrast, Mike Gotta: “Not all analyst blogs contain “analyst-related writings”. Some might be more personal with postings far outside the information topics that one might expect to be associated with an analyst. This is neither good or bad – it depends on what you are trying to accomplish.” Good point, and true to the historical nature of the directory.
Likewise, Mike raises the point that wikis, social bookmark systems and other social media forms all enable analysts to express themselves. So, “fundamental question is whether this is a directory to analysts and how they are expressing themselves via social media”. He’s telling me not to get too hung up in the tech specs, as all tech dies. Et tu, bloge?
Dale shared an interesting model for categorizing blogs, very good and no way to rough cut with justice. Plus, I’m thinking about incorporating into the directory ASAP.
Why do analysts blog, and why does anyone care?
Stowe Boyd, Jen McClure and Dale Vile cracked open this territory with a short debate on social media, thought leadership and the masses. The context is how the blogging and interactive public participates in new ways — and how this can affect opinions, reputations, politics, and more. Clearly, it could affect analyst reputations, as well as the analyst workflow processes (gathering and synthesizing data, reaching and testing conclusions, and publishing).
See Stowe’s post, that kicked off the exchange: What is social media?.
Reprinted from Tekrati
The Tekrati directory of analyst blogs is easier to use, offers more information and is better integrated with its sister directories, on analysts and analyst firms. What’s more, we migrated the OPML to the latest rev and did an extensive housecleaning on the listings. Richard handled the programming effortlessly, as always. I, on the other hand, am still wrestling with a content issue: new rules for separating a blog from any other form of online journal or commentary. I’m asking for help.
You might be thinking that I’m a little slow on the draw, given that I’m just now pondering the universal truths of Blog, some two and half years into publishing a directory of blogs.
Since the 2005 directory debut, my rule has been this: there must be evidence of blog publishing software and/or blog coding and format standards. That’s what split the blogwashers — my term for analysts using web pages that mimic a blog in a cosmetic way — from the bloggers. Only the bloggers that passed this test made it into the directory.
Fast forward to 2007. I’m feeling increasingly self-conscious about this technology-only premise, and that’s not a good thing. More web content seems to be a hybrid, a blend of blog and other content publishing applications. This results in too much dithering on my part. And, I don’t like to guess. Whether a blog is in or out of the directory should be a simple decision. It should not be subjective. (Other elements are subjective, as it is, like who is and who is not an analyst. That’s another conversation.)
What to do? I don’t think that adding more technology to my filtering criteria is the right approach. After all, any kind of page can be turned into an RSS feed, lots of publishing systems allow reader comments, lots of blog templates perform like traditional websites, and lots of analyst blogs don’t accept comments or have feeds that don’t validate.
Over the weekend, I asked Alan Pelz-Sharpe, author of doingITbetter and an analyst at CMS Watch, for his thoughts. He suggested that both purpose and means of publishing could work as criteria. Here’s an excerpt from his email:
“From my perspective a blog is something that is regularly updated and free for open consumption. I guess it is also a little less edited, and (in the spirit of a diary or weblog) more off the cuff - if something requires more thought and examination then this is not the place for it.”
I’m hoping that some analysts and readers will chime in, through trackbacks via the Tekrati weblog. It would be great to get opinions from the likes of Carl Howe, Mike Gotta, Charlene Li or Josh Bernoff, Dale Vile, James Governor, John Blossom, Stowe Boyd, Jen McClure, Jonny Bentwood, and Erik, and of course, more from Alan. And, you.
Thoughts on the redesigned blog directory would be most appreciated, as well. We’re now in position to add more interesting bells and whistles. What appeals to you, and what does not?
The blog directory starts at analystblogs.tekrati.com.*
*Effective 11 February 2011, The Tekrati Analyst Blogs Directory is no longer available.
Reprinted from Tekrati.