I've been pushing the agenda of RSS and other community web apps for some time in my organisation. That's what this blog has mostly been about – that journey. I see a lot of excitement for RSS with application both internally and externally, but I don't get the same enthusiasm for blogs. So it's quite interesting to see the discussion around Scoble's trip to Amazon – it's really getting into the nub of the question, "What are blogs about?" and "Is the bigger world out there ready for them?".
Clearly RSS is a 1-way stream, whereas blogs allow for a 2-way conversation, but RSS can carry your existing stream of data whereas setting up a blog is a whole new concept. The question has to be, "Are our existing communication channels working?" – if blogs can't add to that you can't do it. Microsoft has benefited hugely from allowing blogging in the way that it has. But it has some advantages over a lot of other business. One, it's in the IT industry, it's audience will understand what to do with the things. Two, there's a lot to gain by the two way conversation, letting people feel they can actually change the product that they will be getting. Three (probably related to two), they sell products not services. Four (perhaps), their brand couldn't really suffer a huge amount because of the amount of negative feeling that is out there already – it was a good gamble.
I work in the financial industry, anything that risks tarnishing the companies image just doesn't have any traction. The thought of allowing open, unmoderated comments would horrify the marketing folk – no matter how much they understand the relationship angle.
One day, I think the bulb will go on and I'll find an appliction for blogs – and I'll blog about it here. Right now, for external facing client communication, an open public blog isn't going to work.