One Year Later – What I’ve Learned About Blogging
Today marks the one year anniversary since I started this blog. That being the case, I guess it’s time for the obligatory blogiversary retrospective.
October 1, 2008 was the day I arrived rather late and somewhat grudgingly to the blogosphere. One year later, I can honestly say that starting a blog was the best thing I’ve ever done for my career. My only regret is that I didn’t do it a whole lot sooner.
A year ago, I found myself in a somewhat awkward position. As a developer, I had welcomed and fully embraced the Web 2.0 concept; but as a user, not so much. The whole MySpace craze totally passed me by. I didn’t have a Facebook page (still holding out on that one), nor a Twitter account (I finally got one this past May). Social networking was just not my thing, thank you very much, and up until then I had been perfectly fine with that. But I was now starting to realize that the lack of interaction with the rest of the development community at large was holding me back.
Blogging was something I wanted to try. But whenever I gave the idea any serious consideration, I found it much easier to come up with reasons why starting a blog was just a bad idea.
What if I can’t think of anything to write about? The web is littered with the dusty, desiccated remnants of broken blogger dreams – good folks who I’m sure had the best of intentions, but just ran out of stuff to say.
What if nobody cares? In many ways, the blogosphere is like a college frat party – obnoxious, kind of smelly, and entirely too loud. What would be the point of shouting over the din if no one is listening?
What if I don’t have the time, patience, and dedication it takes? To me, starting a blog meant I was taking on a responsibility – to myself, and to my readers. I knew I would have to approach this thing like I do everything else – all in, or not at all. I set myself a goal of one post per week, which I hoped wasn’t too unreasonable given my already-overflowing schedule.
What if I’m just not smart enough? The fear of being wrong is probably the number one reason I hesitated for so long. I was afraid that by publishing a blog, I would discover how truly ignorant I really was. Worse yet, I would be broadcasting that fact to the entire world in the process! It’s one thing to be stupid, but nobody wants to look stupid – especially in front of their peers.
What I’ve Learned
Running this blog has been a wonderful learning experience. The past year has granted me a good deal more perspective – on the blogging process, on the developer community, and on myself as a human being. It’s been both frustrating and rewarding, discouraging and enlightening, in ways I never imagined. It has taken sacrifice, and brought pleasure and joy; both in great measure.
So, were my initial trepidations justified? In some cases, they were. In case you’re wondering, here’s how it’s all turned out so far.
I have more things to write about than I’ll ever have time to get to. Looking back, it’s hard to believe now that this was ever a concern – quite frankly, once the ball got rolling, ideas started hitting me on the head like seagull shit at a French-fry factory. Software development is such a vast, all-encompassing field that I don’t see how it’s possible to run out of topics. For every blog post I actually publish, there are probably half a dozen others that won’t ever leave the confines of my brain, simply for lack of time. I believe if you are curious, open to learning new things, and try to remain aware of developments in your chosen field, coming up with blog post ideas should be the least of your problems.
Nobody cares, and that’s okay. As a blogger, I think the sooner you come to grips with this, the better – nobody cares what you have to say. You aren’t changing the world. You aren’t curing cancer. Hell, you’re not even curing toe fungus. If you never wrote another post, the world would keep on turning and people would keep on living their lives like you never even existed.
If you can get your head around that fact, and keep on writing anyway, then you have a shot at becoming a successful* blogger.
It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. How much of a time commitment is really involved? There’s a lot of variation here – some posts take an hour, others take days – but I’d say on average, a decent blog post takes me about four hours to write. That’s not a trivial consideration. I have been posting about once a week this far, which is about two full work weeks a year. Something has to give. For me, it’s meant fewer long bike rides, less watching TV, and in some cases less time with friends and family. If you run a blog, how much of a sacrifice you’re willing to make is up to you; just be aware that you will have to make one.
What I don’t know could fill a bus. I have found blogging a very humbling experience. If I could sum up what I’ve learned about myself through blogging in one sentence, it would be this: I know a hell of a lot less about software development than I ever realized.
In fact, with each passing day, the amount of stuff I know I don’t know seems to increase. That may not sound like progress, but actually it is. As former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once said:
… as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know.
This is a concept so stupid, it’s brilliant. I don’t think I could sum it up any better.
The Meaning of Success
*In blogging, like in any activity, determining whether you’re “successful” depends on exactly how you define success.
Am I a successful blogger like Jeff Atwood is a successful blogger, or like Scott Hanselman is a successful blogger? Of course not. I harbor no delusions in this regard, current or future. Sure, I’ve built a pretty loyal subscriber base and I’m getting good traffic; and yes, I’m proud of that. Subscriber counts and traffic are certainly valid ways to measure success, but they aren’t the only way.
How about community recognition? I see that Jurgen Appelo recently published this quarter’s Top 200 Blogs for Developers list. Am I unsuccessful because I didn’t appear on it? I don’t think so, though I vow to keep trying (you hear that, Jurgen? ;) Despite that, a few of my posts have garnered a good deal of attention, and that’s pretty awesome. The validation of your peers is another valid way to measure success – but again, it’s not the only way.
If the efforts I’ve made on this blog can be considered successful in any sense, it is this:
Today is October 1, 2009 -- exactly one year later – and I’m still at it.
Happy Blogiversary to me. ;)
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