It was way back on August 14th, 2005 when I wrote my first blog post entitled “To Blog Or Not To Blog?” where I wrote that I was going to “try blogging and see if it is interesting to me”.
6 years later, this is my 500th blog post. I’m guessing I can now say that yes, I do have an interest in blogging!
Why do I blog?
I often get asked why I blog. The simple answer is – I blog because *I* enjoy it! Back in March 2008 I commented on a report from Australia that stated that blogging actually makes you feel better. Whilst “Blogging The Blues Away” isn’t for everyone, for me it serves a number of purposes.
Firstly, I find it very therapeutic to put my thoughts down in writing. Those who have maintained a written diary at some point will probably agree with me in that when the mind is whizzing with a dozen ideas, focusing on writing about one thought alone gives a sense of clarity to work from.
Secondly, over time my blog has turned into something of my own personal Knowledgebase. There have been a number of times when engineers who have worked with me have told me they’ve been researching a technical problem and that a blog article I wrote in the past came out in a Google search and provided them with the answer! It’s even more amusing when it happens to me personally too!
Thirdly, I’m a lazy, lazy man. Whenever I see an opportunity to systemise something for future efficiency, I will. Being in the fortunate and flattering position where people regularly approach me to ask my advice, I like nothing better than pointing them towards a blog article I wrote on the subject they’re asking about and then offering my help with any follow-up advice I can offer after they’re read that article. I’m able to spend more time helping more people this way.
Finally, and probably most importantly, I’ve met a LOT of people thanks to blogging. Before “Social Networking” was even a buzz word, I used to write blog posts and wonder if anybody even read them (this was way before I started using WordPress with its fancy analytics to track reader metrics!). Then a strange thing started happening. As I attended User Groups, Trade Shows and Conferences – people used to walk up to me and say “I read your blog”. They spoke to me in such a friendly manner as though they knew me well, even though it was the first time we’d met. I realised that in a way they did already know me – because as I tell people when I’m delivering presentations on Blogging and Social Networking nowadays, producing content on-line gives people a chance to get to know you from afar – and what’s more it builds trust in you and your services.
Likewise, I’ve found blogging helps introduce me to like-minded people. I always bang on about “community” – well I consider myself to be a part of a worldwide blogging community in which I’ve built some great friends in all corners of the world.
Changing focus of a blog
The content I write about has changed over time as I’ve changed as an individual. Visiting those first posts in 2005 when I was working as an “IT guy” – fixing PC’s for a living, I wrote about anything and everything from concerts, to computer games, to what I’d been up to that week.
As time went by, my articles focused more on Technical topics. Microsoft Small Business Server featured heavily as I became a part of the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community.
When I started to move away from being the “IT Guy” into becoming a Managed Service Provider (MSP), the content changed again and became more business focused. Slowly, the business articles outweighed the technical articles.
Now the articles are typically about my thoughts and experiences as a business owner. They’re primarily aimed at my peers, who I want to help to grow their businesses in the same way that I did.
Ironically, but not surprisingly, that’s now what I do for a living as an Independent Consultant – working with my peers to help them.
I remember my friend Susanne asking me who my blog was aimed at. I answered “My peers… I guess?!”. The uncertainty over my answer was simply because I just wrote whatever I fancied writing, without any “grand plan”. If it looks like I intentionally ended up in the position I’m in, then I can assure you that’s just a fluke!
Considering finishing blogging?
I’ll admit I’ve flirted flirted with giving up blogging. Firstly due to micro-blogging site Twitter – which I wrote about in January 2009 under the title “The Death of Blogging?”. Later due to haters who I let upset me with negative comments and feedback. Once I got back to the fact I enjoy blog writing primarily for me, I was off writing again.
I’ve recently started writing White Papers and getting involved in some academic studies. I’m finding it a challenge to adapt my “conversational style” of writing – which I’ve had a lot of people comment that they enjoy in my blogging – to the dryer less chatty style required for White Papers. I’m told most people struggle to go from dry to chatty – not the other way round – so hopefully I’ll adapt too. The point is, I write my blog the way I enjoy writing it – there are no right or wrong ways on the style in which you should write your blog – just write it.
Finding the time to blog
The question I’m most asked about blogging is “Where do you find the time?”.
The answer is simple – like anything that is important to me, I make the time.
I don’t have a set schedule, and I don’t block out time in my diary to write blog posts.
However, I do write whenever the urge takes me and I don’t always publish blog posts in the sequence I originally wrote them. If I get an idea, I’ll either add it to a list of blog posts I want to write about in the future, so that when I’m feeling less inspired but want to write – I’ve got something to work on.
If I’ve got time then I’ll begin to brain dump my ideas down into Windows Live Writer there and then. This makes it easier for me to flesh out a blog post later.
Ideally, and time permitting, I’ll write the blog post from start to finish as the idea comes to me. Often, I’ll save it as a draft, and then publish it some time later when I’ve had time to go back and reflect upon it. This can be important, especially when I’m writing about something that I’m passionate about. It’s similar to the tactic of never responding to an e-mail when you’re angry. Always wait some time, re-visit what you’ve wrote and revise once the emotion has had time to settle.
Of course, if you read many of my blog posts from years gone by (which I never delete, even if I cringe to read them now) then you’ll see this is only a technique I’ve recently adapted…
Nothing to write about?
As to the second most common question (or statement, I guess) I hear about blogging from those who are interested in it, but are not writing, is “I wouldn’t have anything to write about”. To them I say this. The stuff I write about most often are things that I experience. It could be a technical challenge, it could be somewhere I visit, somebody I meet, advice I’ve been given and acted upon, advice I’ve ignored, stuff that makes me happy, stuff that makes me upset. Basically, stuff in my everyday life. If you’re stuck for what to write, just have a think about what you’ve done recently and use that to get started.
Who will read it?
If you’re worried that nobody will read it, then realise that to begin with – nobody will. Most people give up writing a blog within the first few weeks because they don’t receive any feedback. I kept writing because as I’ve already stated, I was writing for me alone. Over time, I realised people *were* reading. Consistently publishing blog posts will see you pick up an audience sooner or later, but just be aware it might be later.
What’s more, all those old blog posts you wrote and nobody read at the time suddenly find a new audience as time goes on. The blog post I wrote about “Using SSL Certificates with SBS 2003” hardly got any visits when I first wrote it, but is now in my top five visited articles each week. People stumble across your blog posts via search engines, word of mouth, forums and the like – but they can only stumble across it if it’s there in the first place.
At the start of 2011 “I Got Freshly Pressed” – which saw a huge amount of new visitors. In both 2009 and 2010, I was nominated for the Computer Weekly Blog Awards in the “IT Consultant” category. In all three cases, hugely flattering, and it meant lots of new visitors finding my blog. All this from publishing articles I enjoyed writing!
You never know, 500 posts on you may still be enjoying blogging too!