From time to time people ask me why I blog. The best way for me to answer this is to give you the quick elevator pitch, as well as refer you to a passage from a blog I wrote back in 2008 below. I started blogging internally and then externally when I realized that there was a potential audience of listeners. It wasn’t just about being heard. When I say listeners, I mean people who were curious about my work, my team’s work or the things that we as a team came across.
In the early days I used my blog to tell a story about a forensic exercise, a tool evaluation, an idea I had or even some deep intellectual stuff. I wanted a quick and easy way to document my own experiences in a scratchpad. I was really hoping that by me blogging, it would become contagious and others on the team would start blogging.
I was trying to break a bad habit in my engineers. I noticed my engineers treated knowledge sharing as the final exercise in a project. It was kind of like their code commit patterns. Back in the early 2000’s the developers I worked with were really unpredictable in committing code. We would have month long projects and often we would see commits 1x or 2x a week (if that) and then a couple big commits at the end of the project. Documentation would come in the same cadence. Maybe we would see a TOC early in the project. Then all of the content would miraculously show-up a week or two after the final commit (if we were lucky). I constantly felt in the dark about our progress and issues. The only time I really heard from my engineers was when they were about to miss a deadline and needed an extension…or if they wanted to share a success. What I really wanted was for my engineers to show their work as they went along. I wanted their work to be more transparent. Basically, I wanted them to develop some new good habits.
What I found quickly was that blogging was contagious. Nearly every member of my team took to blogging. Eventually they took to daily commits (some even more extreme…YEAH!!!). At Blackboard, we were considered not only the most transparent team, but often considered the most innovative. Many of our blogs were about experimentation and exploration with new technologies. Because we also shared our thoughts, processes and workflows (we just put them out there for all of Bb to criticize or commend), many teams viewed us as pioneers in thinking.
As I mentioned earlier, I posted a blog in 2008 about Transparency of Work. I’ve included a passage below from that entry. My thoughts in 2008 haven’t really changed all that much in 6 years. Take a look at the entry. Hopefully, you will start blogging as well.
Old Blog Post
This is really an extension of #3 Share Your Experience. For this point, I want to share a quick story. In high school, I had a Math teacher named Captain McIsaac. My high school was originally a feeder school for the Naval Academy, Coast Guard Academy and the Merchant Marine. So we had a lot of older teachers who used to be former Navy. Well anyways…Old Cap McIsaac was an interesting guy. He looked like Ted Kennedy’s twin and probably scored the same on most of his breathalyzer tests. He was a terrible Math teacher. Most of us thought he was awesome because he would give us the answers to the questions on our exams during an exam. We never had to show our work. That’s great for kids who cheat off each other. I have to admit…looking back the guy was terrible. He didn’t hold us accountable for our work. It showed in all of my Math classes after Cap’s class. I did well because I love Math, but it takes an awfully long time to break bad habits. You can pick-up a bad habit in seconds, but it takes weeks…sometimes years to break a bad habit.
There’s an important reason for showing your work…actually there are multiple. The number one reason is so that you personally can spend the time reviewing what you did and explaining it to your peers in a visual manner. Don’t worry if you change your ideas…you just write new blogs. The second reason is that we are a global team. Everyone on the team should get the opportunity to learn from other members of the team. It’s a good way to get feedback and share work. The third reason, which is sadly a bit lame is that our days become so busy, that sometimes we need to be able to comment on a blog rather then having a conversation or email thread.