A while back, I made the observation that blogging has, in general, made an awful lot of people available to mere mortals (like me!) that previously didn't have this type of access. I pointed out reporters, people in large companies, etc, were becoming more and more accessible.
Shortly after making this comment to a school group, I got the obvious: Prove it.
So, for the past couple of months I've been doing just that. Trying to see if Blogging has meaningfully improved the general population's ability to get in front of people, get to 'big shots', etc, etc.
Here is my less then scientific methodology:
1. I created a freebie email account so people wouldn't know it was me.
2. I targeted a cross section of popular bloggers from various corporations and started asking 'random' but reasonably sane questions either of the "help, I don't know" or "can you suggest..." categories.
3. I kept a spreadsheet on who was good/not so good, responsive, etc, etc.
4. I sent out 50 pieces of email. In the world of a gazillion blogs, this is nothing but you can get some data.
5. I sent an additional 30 to email addresses I had of senior people that I knew did NOT have blogs. Just seemed like some good sampling.
Here are the generic highlights. I'm not sharing much because there are a million variables, not the least of which is spam filters, which could have created the delay or non-answer.
Reporters who have blogs answer email. Mark Evans, Mathew Ingram in Canada, jumped right on the notes. I asked them things about the paper's they worked for and both responded with helpful information. It tells me that the average person with reasonable dialog can talk with members of the press. Years ago? Maybe not so easy. Jeff Jarvis who is a fairly big deal, wrote back a lengthy response to a question about a TV appearance he made. Shel Israel answered a note with respect to the Naked Conversations book.
Again, the point is that we can talk to authors, important TV people, etc, in a much more friction free way than ever before.
I think on the technology front, we've made amazing strides. Robert "A blog by any other name is a blog" Scoble was an easy poster child on this one. During his time at Microsoft, in my opinion, you saw a rapid improvement in the overall responsiveness from Microsoft and hundreds of other companies attempting to get closer to users/customers. Blogging, I believe really helped. Having a list of Microsoft people and knowing the general responsiveness of the culture in general, you'll have to trust me when I tell you that my former employer has made great strides from the days of phone optional business cards.
This applies to Google, Oracle, IBM, and other large companies but it has become the norm for newer companies and right from scratch start ups. Icerocket is a good example. Blake Rhodes, the CEO, is on email like a hawk. Josh Einstein is another CEO (of Einstein Tech, makers of TEO) who answers email nearly around the clock.
To be sure, there are many people/companies in the 'don't get it' column. Lots of senior people were in the no answer bucket, sent form letters or had assistants type out the Mr. so -n- so regrets stuff.
It was good to return back with some weird science to make the point that for all the hand wringing about what a blog is or isn't, the communications between people on a variety of topics, both technical and non-technical has improved dramatically over the years.
In the end, it nets out a good thing.