Blogs are an important resource and I want to walk you through why it’s important and why you should want to do it. In this post I’ll give you some techniques that I use in all aspects of blogging from idea generation to execution.
Let’s start though with what might be on your mind already – why should I consider blogging?
What’s in it for you?
Blogging is a great way to make a name for yourself internally and externally – In IBM-speak we would call this your eminence. Your blog also represents you as a brand. And just like artists have drawing portfolios, your blog is part of your technical portfolio. Career-wise blogging is a great move – career “ladders” have a social/blogging aspect. Your blog establishes you as knowledgable in whatever you are writing about. It’s a great way to make new networking connections as well. Just a week or two ago I wrote a blog about classification, and before I knew it I was having interesting conversations based on that post.
And my last personal motivation – if you ever want to make my day, just tell me you read one of my blog posts and you liked it. For me that kind of feedback happens maybe once a month but it’s all I need to keep going. Write something once and the feedback keeps coming – it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
What’s in it for others?
Aside from blogging for your own consider the giveback opportunities blogging entails. How many blogs do you read a day? How many Stack Overflow answers have you used? How many code tutorials do you reference? We stand on the shoulders of giants in many ways.
We owe it to the next generation to share our knowledge, just like the previous generation shared their knowledge with us. Let’s be giants and help them stand on our shoulders!
What should I write about?
When you’re ready to start blogging, all you need is some topics to write about. I’d like you to get out a pencil and paper and jot some notes down on topics you might want to blog about. Here are several ways you can find blog topics.
What do you want to read?
Writing for yourself is a great way to get started – and I mean that in several different factors – what depth do I want a topic covered in, what style do I like to read, etc. Writing for yourself is a quick check for usefulness – as long as the blog would be useful to you, it will be useful to somebody!
A variation on this theme is to write to a younger version of yourself. What do you wish you had known 6 weeks or 6 years ago? These kinds of posts are especially useful in the “younger versions of myself” space and are very well suited as giveback.
What are you learning about?
Writing is a great way to organize your thoughts and figure out exactly what you know about a topic. As you’ve heard: if you want to learn something, a great way is to teach it to others. Even just writing an outline for a blog post will give you great insight into what you need to learn next. Therefore, any topic you are trying to learn about becomes interesting fodder for a blog post.
What do you wish others understood?
How many times have you had an hour conference call, or a half-day workshop, and thought “This didn’t have to be so hard”. I use this as a source for many of my blog posts – being careful of course not to divulge any company secrets. You can also consider this an opportunity to get your thoughts out in an uninterrupted manner.
What do you find yourself saying over and over?
Just like in coding, there is some truth in “Don’t Repeat Yourself”. If you find yourself writing the same thing in email or Slack over and over again – maybe it should be a blog post! You don’t always need to create a lovely artisanal response when you are asked questions, it’s fine to say “I’ve got a great blog post on this topic – here’s a link to get you started”. That time savings can add up.
I don’t mean to say there is never a time for repeating yourself or adapting your message to a specific audience. This blog post is an adaptation an internal talk I gave at IBM on the same topic. It took me several hours to prepare the talk but I quickly turned it into some blogs – that is the power of reuse.
Do I really have anything important enough to say?
Take a moment to read Paul Graham’s essay General and Surprising. He directly addresses this question: “Should I write if I don’t have anything earth-shattering to say?” Paul’s thesis is that the absolute best things to read are general and surprising – stuff like E=mc^2 and F=MA. But those are once-in-a-lifetime types of papers – we don’t need to aim so high every time we write. It’s hard to grab a problem space that is that broad, that general AND surprising. Instead you can think about adding incremental insight and your own perspective.
Through blogging you can make the world a little better with every post you write. That’s a fine thing to do!
What if I blog for my company?
Blogging on a company platform often gets you better exposure. This benefit comes with a small cost – fairly or not you are considered to be “speaking on behalf” of your company. Check with your management before writing on topics your company might be interested in.
How can I get started?
There are lots of platforms where you can quickly set up a blog – I have used WordPress and Medium in the past. There are plenty of resources on how to quickly start a blog. The most important part is what you contribute – with your voice, your topics, and your writing. Blogging is work, but it is rewarding.
You have lots of things to say, that are worth saying. You’ll get better at saying them with practice. I encourage each one of you to start blogging!