!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Wharton Weighs in on Blogging

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Wharton Weighs in on Blogging

Knowledge@Wharton has published a brief sampling of views on the blogosphere collected from Wharton faculty and staff.

I doubt it will come as a surprise when I say that I found the individuals who make selective use of the blogosphere more insightful than those who dismiss blogs as pretty much 100% chaff. I know from my own experience that tuning in to the informed commentary provided by certain bloggers on subjects of interest to me is well worth the hour or so a day I devote to keeping up with new posts.

As with most things in life, the blogosphere is not an all or nothing proposition. The key to using it well is selectivity, i.e., exactly the same process one goes through when deciding what to read in the paper or which newly published books to check out.

Kevin Werbach, Wharton professor of legal studies and business ethics, is my kind of guy. He explains that he looks for blogs
that tell me something I don't already know, including in areas where I am an expert. Even with all the resources I have available as a Wharton faculty member, the distributed global network of millions of bloggers will generate ideas and turn up links that I wouldn't find otherwise. Used well, blogs are an extraordinary filtering mechanism for the vast array of information available online. They are a complement to, not a substitute for, mainstream media — something forward-thinking news organizations are realizing.
Conversely, I believe that someone like marketing professor Xavier Dreze has not assessed the blogosphere with sufficient discernment to speak knowledgeably about what the subset of highly capable bloggers are offering. Consider Dreze's explanation of why he doesn't read blogs:
I don't see the point. It's a bunch of people writing their opinions, and those people have no credibility. The information content is very low.
When you consider that the blogosphere includes such widely acknowledged experts as Nobel-winning economist Gary Becker, computer security guru Bruce Schneier, and the group of professionals who contribute to The Health Care Blog, to name a few, the potential to learn from what's available in the blogsphere seems beyond question to me.

Dan Hunter, another Wharton professor of legal studies and business ethics, describes a use of blogging of particular relevance to trainers on the lookout for ways to strengthen learning. He explains that in his courses
Students are expected to post material to a student-only blog. This provides an account of their learning and gives useful information to other students, forces them to think about the material before the exam, helps them with their understanding, gives an indication of how they are doing during the course of the term, and so on. ...

The lightweight character of blogging takes away the fear of failure and the pressure of things like multiple essays. It also means that other students can comment on the work and provide peer feedback. It removes the authority of the professor as [the sole classroom] arbiter, which, all in all, is a good thing.
In sum, Hunter recognizes the power of blogging for promoting reflection, the sine qua non for good retention of new concepts and principles.