Should I Blog?

I’ve been asked several times over the past month “Should I start a blog?  What if…?”  The answer is yes, you should.  Or more accurately, if you’re interested in blogging you shouldn’t feel afraid to blog.  Here’s a rundown of the good and bad things that will happen to you when you blog:

 

The Good

  • You publish something that helps somebody.  You’ve used a lot of tutorials, newsgroups, and other people’s posts in your career.  Think of your blog as a way to pay it forward.
  • By writing out your position on anything, you’ll be forced to crystallize your thoughts on a subject.  I very frequently use my blog as a way to “pre-can” arguments and explanations for later.  I’ve used my blogging material in consulting roles.  I think that the simple act of expressing yourself is a good way to learn.  What do you think about a subject, and why?  Can you defend that statement?
  • It’s a way to practice communication
  • You’ll get noticed in a positive way and turn it into professional gain.  Arguably, writing a blog is the best thing I’ve ever done for my career.
  • It’ll be funny to go back over old posts and see how your ideas have changed

 

The Bad

  • You end up being wrong.  Somebody will write a comment that tells you why your approach is wrong and they’ll often say “just do this…”  Cool, you just learned a new trick.  You end up being wiser for the experience.
  • You look like an idiot.  Again, you’ve learned something;)
  • “foobar” or another BlogCoward is going to call you a name.  Nothing nearly as bad as what my wife says about me.  Sticks and stones…
  • You’re going to make a very opinionated, inflammatory post and get criticized for it.  Oh my gosh, somebody might disagree with you!  It’s okay, just keep it cool.  One of our former CodeBetter mates used to make inflammatory statements on his blog, then get really bent out of shape when people wrote in to criticize his position and poke holes in his arguments.  If you say something that you know is going to make people mad, expect the flames.  Saying that though, I’ve been surprised several times by the reaction to a post.  You might just want to reread your drafts and tone down the language (believe it or not, I do this but things still leak through).  Besides, you might have deserved the flames in the first place.

 

The Ugly

  • You’ll get fired.  It’s happened occasionally.  A senior consultant at my previous employer was terminated for blogging client information.  That’s an extreme case, and one that’s very easy to avoid.  You simply need to know what your company’s policy is towards blogging and stay within the lines.  If you don’t know what the policy is, you don’t mention your employer’s name at all.  That simple.  I’ve had 4 employers since starting this blog with wildly varying policies.  Just play nice.

 

Reasons Not to Blog

  • There are so many good blogger’s out there, how could I compete?  It’s not a competition.  Besides, good blogger’s come and go.  There’s often a trajectory of writing a flurry of really great stuff, then flatlining.  When I was first aware of the blogosphere one of the best blogger’s around was Joel Spolsky, but when was the last time he wrote anything worth reading?  Maybe one good post a year?  Your favorite blogger is going to fall off any day now.  Anyway, fresh perspectives are always a valuable addition to the conversation.
  • I don’t write well.  Practice makes perfect.  Blogging is usually an attempt to explain or demonstrate some technique, or a persuasive essay.  Both types of writing and communication are important for our careers.
  • It’s all been said.  I doubt that’s true, and even if it was, not everything said has been read.  People don’t read old posts, and there’s always a whole new generation of developers on the way up that didn’t read the past masterpieces.  Just because I wrote a bunch of posts on the do’s and don’ts of mock objects three years ago doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of value in you writing a brand new post on mock object usage.  Heck, a lot of what I’ve written the last three years was originally discussed on Ward’s Wiki in the late 90′s, but that didn’t, and shouldn’t have, stopped me.

 

And finally, if you’re really, really lucky and good, you can become a cultural force like Justice Gray.

About Jeremy Miller

Jeremy is the Chief Software Architect at Dovetail Software, the coolest ISV in Austin. Jeremy began his IT career writing "Shadow IT" applications to automate his engineering documentation, then wandered into software development because it looked like more fun. Jeremy is the author of the open source StructureMap tool for Dependency Injection with .Net, StoryTeller for supercharged acceptance testing in .Net, and one of the principal developers behind FubuMVC. Jeremy's thoughts on all things software can be found at The Shade Tree Developer at http://codebetter.com/jeremymiller.
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  • maila

    I love whta you have written and this hads definitely answered the question of whether or not to blog that had been haunting me for months. Thank you for your help :)

  • Liam

    Great post! I’ve recently started keeping a blog to help my communication skills and also to help me develop professionally.

    Liam

  • http://www.pipelinez.com Jo

    Wow, I have been agonizing for weeks on whether or not to start a blog to enhance my website. I think you have just answered each question I have been asking myself. I guess I’ll have to give it a try!!!!! Thanks for the information.

  • http://statestreetgang.net Will

    “You’re going to make a very opinionated, inflammatory post and get criticized for it.”

    This is also known as the “Stored Procedures Post.”

  • http://techrockguy.blogspot.com/ Yi Chuan

    Time is the only factor that is putting me back from blogging. But the time spent is definitely worthwhile with all the pros listed above.

    Blogging also allow me to reflect more on what I have done, rather than just doing stuff for the seek of doing without having more in depth understanding.

  • http://dalibor42@yahoo.com Dado

    Good post.

  • http://www.opensource.org/ AnonCoward

    Hysterical! You the positive force in the universe. Your job (and others here) is to mock them and the arguments and positioning yours as the only ones that matter.

  • http://www.caffeinatedCoder.com Russell Ball

    Excellent Post.

    I couldn’t agree more with you on the positive aspects of blogging. Besides helping my crystallize my thoughts on a topic, it has also led me to dig much deeper into topics than I ever used to before. The implicit threat of a commenter calling me out for my carelessness has definitely led me to improve my researching habits as well as be more willig to pre-emptively look at issues from different angles.

    I also heartily agree with your thoughts on the “It’s all been said” objection. It prevented me from blogging for years, but now I have a list of potential post topics that is about a hundred items long that I never seem to get to because something more interesting always pops up first.

    While the echo chamber affect is certainly a blogging anti-pattern, I’ve found that there are an infinite number of interesting variations on an old theme that can still make it valuable to readers. Some of the best blog posts I’ve read have just taken tired old topics that I never really understood before and gave it just the right amount of context for me to finally experience the ah-ha momment.

    Anyways. Keep up the excellent work. I consider your blog to be one of the better examples of “how to do a blog right”.

  • http://shane.jscconsulting.ca Shane Courtrille

    If Justice is a cultural force I think we really need to reconsider this whole “culture” thing and whether it’s really worth it ;)

  • http://itscommonsensestupid.blogspot.com Ngu Soon Hui

    Nice post. I blog because I simply love writing, and it helps me to crystallize my points, as you said.

  • http://activeengine.wordpress.com ActiveEngine Sensei

    Crystalizing your thoughts is so critical in our field, and in many ways is neglected while we pursue new technology and techniques.

    One additional comment I’d add to the flatlining of creativity is that any of the true masters, Mozart, Beethoven, grandmasters of chess like Bobby Fisher or Josh Waitzkin have all take at least 10 years to perfect their craft. You may hit a a lull, but that may be a plateau that needs to be cleared or surpassed before you reach the next level.

  • http://www.geekconnected.com/mohamaed MohamedSaleh

    Thanks for this post Mr. Miller, i think many people dont know the real value of the blogging, you talk about many good points that encourage people to start blogging and share thier ideas and thoughts with others.

  • http://www.invisible-city.com/sharon/ Sharon

    Thanks for this post. This has been on my mind a lot over the past few months, especially the “It’s all been said” concern. Lately I’ve been reassuring myself with similar answers; it’s nice to have some outside encouragement, too.

    Now all I need to do is find the time…