Blogs versus Department Meetings

26 September 2007 at 11:25 am 5 comments

| Peter Klein |

A friend recently became economics department head at his university. He created a blog as a partial substitute for, and potential complement to, meetings.

I hate department meetings, which inevitably are scheduled at some time when most people are tired or distracted. Once there, much time is wasted by people who are slow in expressing themselves, or in discussing issues about which we haven’t had time to think or gather the information necessary to decide something. For any individual, some of the discussions are boring or irrelevant and a waste of time.

I have been trying to use the blog to handle most issues that do not require a quick decision or a real, face-to-face dialog. . . .

I am having at best moderate success because some of my colleagues refuse to visit the blog on anything like a regular basis. I am trying to make things easier for them. A successful change was to introduce a “recent posts” sidebar like you have on O&M, so my colleagues can quickly see what, if anything, is new since they last visited the blog.

I suggested setting up a “favorite posts” or “critical posts” section of the sidebar (somewhat like our “Most Popular” section). Of course, some departmental issues — personnel matters, for example — are too sensitive to discuss even on a private blog. But many of the usual items can perhaps be handled easily.

What suggestions would you offer? More generally, how can blogs, wikis, and similar tools increase office productivity by substituting for meetings? (Of course, some people will always prefer meetings.)

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Institutions, Management Theory. Tags: .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Carl Marks  |  26 September 2007 at 11:08 pm

    I would think that a forum would be a better tool.

    If you really want to make sure people are reading things, why not just have an email list?

  • 2. Mark Madrilejo  |  27 September 2007 at 7:04 am

    I’m guessing that your friend’s colleagues aren’t using RSS. I *never* visit this blog to see what’s new — I’ve subscribed to the feed and whenever there’s something both new and interesting, I stop by and check it out.

    RSS user interfaces aren’t as mature as email applications, but it’s a good habit to learn if you track more than one or two blogs.

  • 3. Per Bylund  |  27 September 2007 at 2:25 pm

    A solution would be to just make it a department policy to have the blog page as [mandatory] start page in your browser. The IT division could easily set this up and even make sure people cannot change it. (Professors do use Internet browsers, don’t they?)

    Or you simply create real incentives for department employees to visit the blog – buy a cake and post an invitation to department get together on the blog only. That will make people use it… (Food and sweets seem to always work as incentives.)

  • 4. Tim Swanson  |  28 September 2007 at 3:14 am

    While this would probably fly over the heads of most technophobes, learning how to use an RSS reader would work wonders for this specific issue.

    Both Google and Yahoo offer free, easy to use readers, and of course Bloglines is still around too (http://www.google.com/reader).

    And not to make anyone feel like a kid, but requiring a mandatory comment or email to signify they’ve read the post could increase the success rate.

  • 5. Peter Klein  |  28 September 2007 at 10:10 am

    Incentives and RSS are good. Regarding the first comment on email, my friend writes:

    “I specifically wanted to avoid e-mail as the primary way of communication. I end up with hundreds of e-mails to try to organize about any particular topic. Some include the text of the original e-mail; some do not. Some reply to the sender only; some to all recipients; some respond to and use the subject heading of, the original mail; others are responses to responses. I find it to be a giant hassle to sort through all this crap. With the blog, all the comments on a particular topic are right there in front of me, in one place, in sequence, with no need for organization by me.

    “I still use e-mail when I need people’s attention quickly. But the blog was specifically meant to replace a lot of e-mail traffic.”

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