Friday, June 05, 2009

Why Blog?

I recently had an extended conversation with a group of about 10 folks who lamented the poor understanding of the value their particular functional role brings to a software development team.

One question I posed: how many of you blog on the topic of your profession? The answer was zero.

Why don't they blog? Here is my interpretation of the reasons for not blogging:

  • Not enough time - working 40 to 50 hours per week leaves little extra time to spend composing and presenting ideas in a professional manner, much less having a reasonable social life.
  • Lack of original ideas - there's not much I can think of to write about that hasn't already been addressed somewhere - whether in another blog, in a book, or in conference presentations.
  • Confidentiality - many of the examples from my work are proprietary; obfuscating the details takes time and can cause loss of message fidelity.
  • Low readership - the effort to reach a small number of readers, given the size of the blogosphere, has a low RROI (readership return on investment?)

My blogging is sporadic. I understand the effort required to wrap ideas in a digestable format. I also edit articles for an online IT journal ( Editing is hard work. Blogging doesn't require the depth of perfection that articles do.

Sometimes you're better off taking a stab at it and clarifying the concept through further blog entries than simply waiting to start.

Who reads my blog? According to Google Analytics - about 15 - 30 people. That's the volume of hits I generally get with a new post. It's not much, but size isn't everything. Every once in a while a link to your post will get posted to an aggregate someplace (digg, reddit, Developer Zone, etc.) and will generate more traffic and conversation.

The benefits to blogging:

  • Personal brand promotion. As your blog is read by others, your personal brand improves.
  • Clarifying thoughts. Organizing and writing about a topic forces you to develop clarity on your topic.
  • An idea portfolio. When you apply for new jobs or try to sell to new clients, your blog serves as a portfolio of your ideas and promotes your depth of thinking on your profession. It also serves to show off your communication skills.
  • Writing skills. Most of us need to communicate through the written word in our lives. Blogging is great practice.

Here's a technique I use to generate blog entries. Whenever I get an insight or a flash, I start a blog entry in a text file. Sometimes it's just a thought (one file - pragmatism.txt - has the following: "Pragmatism vs. agile").

When I have down time (waiting in the airport, sitting on a plane), I take a look at my partials and figure out what I'm in the mood to explore. I happen to be on a plane as I type this.

Your topics will rarely be entirely original. What will be original, however, is how you shape your message with your unique perspective and background. Combining this uniqueness with the topic at hand is what renders insight.

Low readership is not an issue. The benefits of clarifying your thoughts, having an idea portfolio, and improving writing skills are all independent of the size of readership.

So go ahead and start. Create a blog and type "Hello World". You may be surprised at how the ideas start flowing. Start recording things you want to explore ... and start blogging !

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