director, Web technologies, Sun Microsystems

Major IT vendors are encouraging employees to start blogs to reach out to users in new ways and help make the companies seem less impersonal. But so far, the blogging conversation is mostly one-sided.

As yet, there aren’t many IT managers blogging about big-picture technology issues, based on interviews with vendors and Internet searches conducted by Computerworld U.S.

“Clearly, vendors have much stronger pressure on them to have a relationship with the world,” said Tim Bray, director of Web technologies at Sun Microsystems Inc. But CIO blogs would get instant attention from vendors, Bray added. “If a few of those guys started doing that, you can darn well bet that we would be reading them. I sure would,” he said. Clearly, vendors have much stronger pressure on them to have a relationship with the world.Tim Bray>Text Among the IT managers who do blog is Alex Scoble, who heads IT at Palo Alto, Calif.-based law firm Tomlinson Zisko LLP. Scoble said this week that he blogs mostly about technical issues, seeking product recommendations from other users and even writing about customer support snafus.

The blog, which he started about 18 months ago, has served as a good way to record his work and solicit advice, Scoble said. There’s also some personal satisfaction involved. “If I can help a couple of people with experiences that I’ve had, that’s great,” he said.

And Scoble sees professional benefits to writing a blog as well. It puts his IT knowledge and experience “out there,” he noted. “It tells prospective employers what you know.”

Scoble may be more comfortable with blogging than are most IT managers partly because of the efforts of his well-known blogging brother, Robert Scoble, who is an employee at Microsoft Corp.

Robert Scoble writes a blog called “Scobleizer: Microsoft Geek Blogger” that’s ranked No. 31 on the list of the 100 most-linked blogs compiled by Technorati Inc.’s blog-tracking search engine.

Christopher Sloop, chief technology officer at AWS Convergence Technologies Inc. in Gaithersburg, Md., participates in a public group blog at his company, which develops the widely used WeatherBug software. Sloop said he thinks it’s important to communicate about the software and discuss technical issues with users.

But he added that it’s difficult to find the time to work on the blog. That may also be an issue for other IT managers, Sloop said. Blogging by users “may occur more on a customer support level or a programmer level,” he said.

Among major vendors, IBM this month detailed a policy that encourages its 320,000 employees to blog. IBM isn’t prohibiting workers from blogging about the company but said they should include their names and, when relevant, roles at IBM. The company also said bloggers need to follow its conduct code, not reveal sensitive issues and not cite customers without their approval.

Sun is hosting more than 1,000 employee blogs that are public and said it lets workers discuss any topic in them. Microsoft has some 1,500 blogs, many on technical issues related to its products. IBM currently hosts about 30 blogs written by employees, and Hewlett-Packard Co. said it’s also hosting a relatively small number at this point.

David Gee, vice-president of marketing for the management software business at HP, said he believes blogging will take root at user companies as they hire younger IT workers who blogged regularly in college. “It will be pushed by that generation doing what they do at home and wanting to have it in the office,” he said. “We’ve seen history of that in the industry time and time again.”

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