Book review: Naked Conversations

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Naked Conversations discusses the human implications of using blog technology. It is not a particularly technical book and it does not cover the technical aspects of setting up and writing a blog. Given the relative simplicity of blogging tools, such a manual is not required.

It is written by two self-confessed ‘blog champions’ so the tone is largely positive. The authors posted draft chapters on their own blog during the book’s development and incorporated the feedback they received. This has allowed them to present some dissenting voices, but they make it clear in the introduction that they are not presenting a fully objective study.

I don’t feel this admission detracts from what the book sets out to achieve. The main strength of the book is the wealth of case studies which are very useful for IT professionals and business people interested in the practical application of this technology.

Given the subject matter, it comes as no surprise that the tone of the book is largely conversational and highly accessible. Naked Conversations takes the topics of The Cluetrain Manifesto (Christopher Locke et al) a step further in discussing the rise of technology in the context of the business applications of the internet. According to Scoble and Israel, blogging and other forms of social media are changing the relationship between organisations and their clients by stimulating a two-way conversation.

The book shows how organizations have capitalized on this conversation. It is divided into three sections. The first provides the context for the rise of blogging as a form of social media and an analysis of the business use of blogs today. The authors cite many practical examples including Scoble’s own experience at Microsoft but by the time I reached chapters six and seven (on the uses of blogs by consultants and publicists respectively) I felt the case studies were becoming repetitive.

Chapter eight explores the impact of national culture on blogging and can be read as a wider analysis of how technology is affected by the culture of its users.

The second section is four chapters setting out examples of good and bad practice for corporate blogging, for decision makers and the employees selected to post. This section would provide an excellent starting point for any organization looking to implement blogging policies or guidelines for employees.

The third and shortest section discusses future technology and sociological trends in this area including geo-tagging and video blogs.

What makes Naked Conversations a valuable contribution to this new field is the convincing way it relates the impact of blogging technology to the day-to-day lives of the people who use it. As such it is interesting reading for any IT professional working with end users.

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