How Far They Have Fallen, or Proof of The Power of Brand

Today, via “ProBlogger”:http://www.problogger.net/archives/2005/07/16/blogging-tools-compared/ I found a link to an impressive looking chart comparing blog software/service functionality. The “chart”:http://www.ojr.org/ojr/images/blog_software_comparison.cfm accompanies an article titled “Time to check: Are you using the right blogging tool?”:http://www.ojr.org/ojr/stories/050714gardner/. The article and chart are posted at the University of Southern California’s Online Journalism Review.

The article and chart claim to serve the would-be blogging public by illustrating which tool is best for their needs. A worthy and impressive task, to be sure. This article and chart fails though, in a fairly important and spectacular way.

Allow me to post here a copy of my comment left on ProBlogger:

bq. While it is at first glance an impressive piece of work, it fails to mention several important and popular software options, and ignores simple plugin functionality. It misleads the reader by implying that the options listed are the “right blogging tool”, and its scholarly appearance and banner gives false authority to a marginal piece.

Drupal, as mentioned above, and Textpattern are both missing. I know it’s impossible to include every CMS, but imo, passing over Textpattern is a significant oversight. There is a very large base of users, a very healthy library of plugins, and hundreds of tutorials available. And its free. And a heck of a lot easier to install than some of the listed options.

Not including plugin capabilities on the chart is a huge oversight. I’m at a loss as to why the writer chose to include the API (which only a tiny fraction of the population cares about) and not whether the software supports third party functionality. The three CMSs that I am familiar with (Textpattern, WordPress, and MT) make heavy use of plugins. If one were to go by the chart alone, one would be left with the impression that MT lacks the ability to blacklist commentors (a fact that would likely dissuade most users). In fact, adding blacklist ability is a simple matter of installing a plugin. Plugins are given a short sentence in the body of the article, but leaving their mention off the chart is tantamount to intellectual dishonesty.

In all, while this is at first glance an impressive accomplishment, it falls quite short of being a useful tool. No mention is made as to what criteria were used to select the programs, nor is any mention made of the plethora of other choices available. The fact that this article is posted at a major University’s Online Journalism Review shows just how far behind the time journalists and academia have fallen.

By simply including a statement as to *why* these services and software were included, the article would have maintained its credibility. Instead, one is left with the impression that the author merely chose the first 8 options at random, or worse, off the top of her head.

Also, by not including a disclaimer regarding plugins _on the chart itself_, the author does a great disservice to the programmers who created the software, and to the users who select an inappropriate or lesser tool as a result.

h2. Proof of the Power of a Brand

It’s particularly interesting to me to note the effect of _where_ the article was posted. Because this is posted at a University, I expect it to be credible. Because it’s posted at a journalism review, I expect it to be well researched. In other words, the “brand”:http://www.peterflaschner.com/?id=110 connotes a level of authority and respectability.

A review of the article and chart by an average reader (or even a quick review by a specialist – sorry Darren, I’m calling you on this) will lead that reader to believe that the information contained in the piece is accurate, complete, and *trustworthy*. The USC and OJR logos practically guarantee it.

This same piece, posted at livejournal would not carry the same weight, correct?

h2. Content can kill a brand. Fast.

So this is a case of branding in action. It’s also a showcase for how quickly a brand can fall apart. My esteem for both USC and its Online Journalism Review has plummeted. Just like that, all the work the designers put into building a platform of authority and respectability has been significantly damaged.

Sometimes we designers and marketers can get a bit carried away with our ability to influence. Its certainly true that we can set the stage. But we’re beholden to the actors to make it come alive. A humbling fact…