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Tue, Jul 08, 2003 - Page 12 News List

Web logs gaining new popularity as workplace tools

JOURNALS A growing number of businesses, agencies and schools are using `blogs' to improve the flow of information to their employees


For Nicholas Tang, the deluge of work-related e-mail messages became overwhelming.

"It got to the point where I was getting hundreds of e-mails a day, sometimes more than a thousand," said Tang, director of operations at Community Connect, a company in New York that operates AsianAvenue.com and other online communities with an ethnic focus.

For several years Tang viewed this daily surge of e-mail messages as an unpleasant but necessary part of his job managing a team of eight engineers. Then, a few months ago, he began using an alternative to e-mail, a Web log.

Web logs, or blogs as they are known, are a type of frequently updated online journal, often featuring excerpts from news articles and links to other blogs.

So far, Web logs are best known as a medium for communicating with the general public -- like the blog by the noted journalist Andrew Sullivan (www.andrewsullivan.com), which is devoted to culture and politics, and sites such as the Veg Blog (www.vegblog.org), which is about all things vegetarian.

In the corporate context, some chief executives, for better or worse, have adopted blogs as a way to share their personal wisdom with the wider world. But a growing number of businesses, government organizations and educational institutions are using Web logs to manage and improve the flow of information among their employees.

These blogs, not accessible to the public, typically allow many people to contribute entries that can be read by others in the organization. It may be too soon to tell whether the corporate blog will emerge as a genuinely useful tool for business communications or simply another way for bores and blowhards to blather. But a growing circle of adopters, like Tang, swear by their blogs.

At Community Connect, Tang's engineers use a service called LiveJournal to post updates about tasks such as fixing server computers or configuring software. Hitting the upload button sends the text to a private site, which is viewable by the authors and their managers, including the date and time of the postings and, often, links to relevant Web pages.

"When I want to know something I check the Web log," Tang said. "It saves me the trouble of e-mailing people or yelling across the room to get a status update."

Tang has also used blogs to coordinate group projects, like the recent process of interviewing job candidates for a programming position. The various people at the company who spoke to each candidate posted their comments on a password-protected Web log.

"One person wrote that a candidate was `quiet,"' Tang recalled. "There was a whole discussion about this. `What does that mean? Is it a bad thing? There was more back and forth with the interview process. It helped everyone to get on the same page more quickly."

Because of their informal nature, blogs can lead to digressions. Shirley Palma, a Community Connect administrator, said that after meeting one job candidate, a woman posted this message on the interview blog: "I think he's so cute! I want to take him home!" Palma noted that "it was in a motherly way; she didn't mean anything by it."

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