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(March 07, 2005) - One of our guiltiest guilty pleasures (online, at least) is a regular dose of Chris Locke. Sometimes known as RageBoy, sometimes known as the co-author of the Cluetrain Manifesto, Locke is the unacknowledged heir to the legacy of a brilliant line of writers beginning with Hunter Thompson. When he's on, he's way on. When he's off, it looks like a testimonial for medicinal lithium.

These days, Chris is posing as the author of a blog called Chief Blogging Officer (CBO). Big fat tongue planted firmly in cheek, CBO is a shot across the bow at organizations who attempt to incorporate new ideas using Chief X-ing Officers. Really, CBO is a shot across the bow at convention in general.

These are the sorts of murky realms one wanders in search of inspiration.

Chief Blogging Officer is brilliant on two critical levels. The content has Rageboy's standard ratio of crap to diamonds (meaning that the diamonds are delicious and large while the crap is prevalent). The business model bears close scrutiny from anyone thinking about tying a blog to their company; CBO is a very successful model of outsourced blogging.

Let's look at the business model first.

Chief Blogging Officer is a showcase for some very cool new blogging tools from HighBeam Research. A "blog this document" feature enables bloggers to link to the full text of relevant articles from over 3,000 print publications. Currently in beta with a small group of bloggers, the new tools provide easy access to 33 million articles going back almost 25 years -- adding depth and historical background on virtually any subject. Any blogger who wants to get at the deeper trends and issues underlying today's headlines should find substantial value in this capability.

HighBeam is looking for bloggers interested in exclusive use of these new blogging tools and free access to the company's premium archives. If you're interested in participating in the program when we come out of beta, just fill in the blanks below and we'll keep you posted. Rest assured that your personal data will not be given to The Bad People.
- CBO, Calling All Bloggers

In other words, CBO is underwritten by Highbeam Research. It's a trend setting act of courage. The content would be scary for most companies. But, sponsoring Rageboy's stuff gets the message about HighBeam and its background out to lots of interesting thought leaders.

HighBeam is a lowcost provider of "search plus" services. From Executive data (from Eliyon) to off-web magazine content, the service competes in the space formerly occupied by Lexis/Nexis. There's almost no good reason not to have the $99 service in your arsenal of research tools.

We're betting that Highbeam's willingness to invest in a high profile lunatic will be the key to their long term success. It's an approach worth considering,

The content is an even better story.

In a current piece called Search, Serendipity and Bricollage, Rageboy/Locke gets at the real underlying problems with current search technology (including the stuff in our industry that tries to pass for technology).

  • So there's search. But there are various kinds of search, and some of these "kinds" are more unalike than they are similar. That's part of the challenge of searching. Figuring out what you're looking for, and whether the things you turn up are really things-of-a-kind. Or not. But you can't know until you find them, and you wouldn't be searching if you already knew where they were. Am I right, Dude? This is where serendipity comes into it. The happy accident, the stochastic glitch, the cybernetic analog of grace. That changes your direction. Sometimes changes your life. But let's not get too heavy too soon. We're talking about search. And don't worry for now that this is an extended koan. Don't try to understand too hard. Maybe it's just cut-up poetry. What did Freud say? "Evenly-hovering attention." Yeah, that's what we need here. Bear with me. 

A working definition of improvisation may be taken from jazz music, where it entails composing and performing contemporaneously. Within organizations, it can be described as the conception of action as it unfolds -- acting without the benefit of elaborate prior planning. It is generally understood in terms of fortuity, serendipity and the unexpected discovery of solutions, often in times of crisis. Some commonly cited examples include: Honda's success in introducing 50cc bikes into the US market; the actions of crew members to save a ship whose navigation system had broken down; and the rescue of Apollo XIII by NASA scientists working with unfamiliar concepts...
- from: Minimal structures: From jazz improvisation to product innovation by Miguel Pina e Cunha
- source: Organization Studies 1 September 2001

- from CBO, March 03, 2005

We'll pick up here tomorrow.

John Sumser

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