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Get More Value from Blogging, part I: The Immediate Benefits of Thought

This entry is part 1 of 8 in the series Get More Value from Blogging

Paul Gillin invited me to do an #infoboom tweetchat on the professional and personal value of blogging on March 3, 2011 (2pm-3pm EST). When I brainstormed some of the things I’d like to talk about, I ended up with a big list: not just the value I get from blogging, but also tips for how you can build that too. I hope you enjoy this blog series!

People often ask me: Why do you blog? Where do you find the time to do it? How can you find all these things to write about?

I tell people I don’t have the time to not blog. It’s a tremendously valuable practice. Life-changing, even. In this blog series, I’m going to explain how blogging helps me both personally and professionally, and I’m going to share tips on how you can get that kind of value too.

Part I: The Immediate Benefits of Thought

I write for selfish reasons, among which are the benefits of the process of writing. Even if no one read my blog, it would already be worth the time. Here are four ways to get immediate value from writing about life.


1. Clarity

I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.

Joan Didion, author

Writing helps me think more clearly. When I struggled with homesickness and doubt, I wrote down what I was thinking, what I was afraid of, what I hoped for, and what I wanted to do. When I puzzled through a bug in my code, I wrote down the symptoms, the approaches I tried, and the solution I found. Writing forces me to slow down and find words to express myself. Strand by strand, I can untangle the mental mess and turn it into something coherent.

Tips: Next time you’re thinking about something complicated…

  • Use mindmaps to write down key ideas in a loose structure. See if that helps you understand your reasons and your alternatives.
  • Use lists, tables, and other idea organizers to think through a problem. For example, you might make a list of pros and cons for alternatives.
  • Write your thoughts down in a journal (private, if necessary) so that you can take a step back and understand them.

Examples:


2. Recognition

The human mind has first to construct forms, independently, before we can find them in things.

Albert Einstein, physicist

When you can name a thing, you understand it better. If I spend an hour getting to the roots of my procrastination and realize that it’s because I don’t value the results enough, I can recognize that feeling when I encounter it in life, and I can do something about it. Writing helps me get a grip on strong emotions or confusing puzzles. Understanding something lets me work with it.

Reading voraciously helps me with writing and with life. Books and blog posts help me learn how other people describe their experiences and find words that resonate. Other people’s phrases and metaphors can be launching pads for your own.

Writing about life also helps me appreciate it better. When I write about the things that make me happy, I pay more attention to them in life, and grow even happier. When I write about things I can improve, I get better at recognizing opportunities to do so. Like the way that sewing helps me see clothes in a new light and woodworking teaches me more about furniture, writing helps me learn about life.

Tips: Next time you struggle to describe something…

  • Give it a try, even if you don’t feel your description is adequate. You can go back and revise or build on your previous notes.
  • Read what other people have shared and look for words or phrases that get you closer to the idea.
  • Try a metaphor. Sometimes they can lead to surprising insights.
  • Use writing to learn about life, and use life to improve your writing.

Examples:


3. Size

Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.

Albert Einstein

The brain can hold only so much in thought at a time. It’s like a computer with limited memory. This limitation frustrates me. I might be thinking of interesting things while walking around or while doing dishes, but my mind flits from thing to thing without depth, and that the older thoughts fade quickly and are hard to recall.

Writing gets ideas and information out of my head. This external memory allows me to not only work with bigger things, but to work without the fear of forgetfulness or loss. This also allows me to “chunk”, improving both my memory and my ability to work with ideas. By moving complex ideas out of my head and into a form where I can get a handle on them, I can work with larger combinations. It’s like the way that a pianist playing from memory doesn’t think of individual notes but of patterns, and the way that chess grandmasters don’t think of individual pieces, but of configurations of attack and defense. Writing these detailed posts on the value of blogging allows me to use the high-level summaries as building blocks for other thoughts.

Tips: Next time you’re working with a large, complex idea…

  • Write down parts of the idea, then summarize your thoughts and use the summaries to build the next level of thinking. Repeat as needed.
  • Try using an outline to break the idea down into smaller ideas, and continue until you get to the level of detail you want.

Examples:

  • This series!

4. Reflection and improvement

There are three principal means of acquiring knowledge… observation of nature, reflection, and experimentation. Observation collects facts; reflection combines them; experimentation verifies the result of that combination.

Denis Diderot, philosopher

Writing is a way of having a conversation with yourself. Through that conversation, you can look at what you’re doing, why you do it, and how you can do things better. You can talk about what you feel, why you feel it, and whether that helps or hinders you. This reflective practice helps you understand yourself better and improve the way you work and live.

I find it very useful to observe myself and ask questions. After giving a presentation, I think about how I did it and how I can improve. When feeling strong emotions, I ask myself why I feel that way and what that reveals about me. I think about how I want to spend my time and how that matches up with reality. Writing reinforces that routine of reflection.

Writing helps me identify things I want to build on, either when I read it back or when other people share their insights. Writing helps me work around the temptation to lie to myself or to gloss over factors. When I write things down, I have a better chance of figuring out when I don’t make sense, and when I do.

Tips: Build some time into your schedule for regular reflection so that you can…

  • Ask yourself: What am I doing well? How can I do things even better? Write your thoughts in a private journal or on a blog.
  • Review your reflections occasionally to see what else you can learn from them.

Examples:

 

Series NavigationGet More Value from Blogging, part II: The Compounding Value of an Archive »

Get More Value from Blogging, part II: The Compounding Value of an Archive

This entry is part 2 of 8 in the series Get More Value from Blogging

Paul Gillin invited me to do a tweetchat on the professional and personal value of blogging on March 3, 2011 (2pm-3pm EST, #infoboom). When I brainstormed some of the things I’d like to talk about, I ended up with a big list: not just the value I get from blogging, but also tips for how you can build that too. I hope you enjoy this blog series!

Update: Added quote from Donald Knuth, thanks to Mohamed!

The value of blogging: Part II: Archive

Blogging provides value immediately and in the long run. Blog posts are saved in a chronological archive that can be browsed, searched, and organized into categories. The more you write, the more valuable this archive becomes.


1. Search

But men are men; the best sometimes forget.

Shakespeare

What did I ever do before writing? I’m not sure, but it probably involved reinventing the wheel again and again. My blog archive saves me time that I would’ve wasted re-solving problems. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve searched my blog for notes. I’ve even come across answers to things I’d completely forgotten solving.

It’s not a perfect system, but it’s better than nothing. Sometimes I don’t remember the words I used. I have a sneaky suspicion that Google might not have indexed all of my blog’s pages, too. But I can usually turn up what I’m looking for, and that’s good enough to keep me writing.

Tips:

  • Whenever you solve problems that took you a lot of time to figure out, spend a few extra minutes to write up your notes.
  • When writing, think about whatever keywords you think you might use when searching. Use as many of them as you can, either including them in the text or using them as categories/tags for your post. That increases your chances of finding information again.

Examples:


2. Review

What is past is prologue.

Shakespeare

Where did all that time go? If you’ve ever asked yourself that question or struggled to fill in the boxes during annual performance reviews, you might find a blog useful.

I use my blog for weekly, monthly, and yearly reviews. My archived notes make it easy to remember what I was working on and what I achieved. As a result, annual reviews are more fun than painful. This helps set a rhythm for my life, too.

Regular reviews keep me on track. I can review my plans and see how I’m doing, or change them if my priorities have shifted. I can tell when I’ve been procrastinating something for a while (it shows up on multiple reviews!) and I can think about whether or not I really want to do it.

Tips:

  • Build a habit of weekly reviews, then include monthly and yearly reviews as you get the hang of it.
  • Use your review time to reflect on your past and plan your future.

3. Growth

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.

Benjamin Franklin

Writing about my decisions helps me review them later. For example, I wrote about limiting my blog posts to one a day. A year later, I revisited that decision to see if it still made sense for me. I’ve got notes about what I want to do with IBM and some of the reasons why I love my husband, and I add to those regularly. Being able to read through my blog archive makes it easier to remember the reasons for my decisions and to detect when things are changing.

Written accounts allow me to compare my past selves with the present. How have I improved my skills? How have I changed my mind? What have I lost and what have I gained? I can trace my stick-figure skills from my first such presentation in 2008 to my most-recent presentation through the evolution of my sketches. (I’ve gotten better at drawing quickly, but I don’t draw with many colours as I used to.)

Tips:

  • Write down your reasons for a decision. Set a reminder to review your decision and see if it’s worthwhile.
  • Write about your feelings and experiences to help you revisit them.

4. Overview

The very act of communicating one’s work clearly to other people will improve the work itself.

Donald Knuth

How do you know what you know? If you were to make a list of things you could teach other people, you’d probably be able to quickly list some recent items, but you might forget to mention things you learned several years ago. Blog archives can help you remember what you know so that you can build on it, combine it with other ideas, or share it with other people.

My archive helps me get a sense of what I know about a topic and how to organize that logically. I can see the gaps that I need to learn and document. As I revise, I improve my understanding.

By looking at what I tend to write about, I can get a sense of where I pay attention and how that attention changes over time. I can also use my archive to slowly build resources for summary posts with links to details.

Tips:

  • Use categories to organize your posts so that you can view them by topic.
  • Review your posts by category to see if you can write a better summary.
  • Plan what you want to learn, write about the details, and then review your archives for the overview.

Examples:


4. Value

A good blog archive’s value goes beyond the value of its individual posts. When people come to your blog because of a search result or a referral, they can explore your archives to learn more about the topics they’re interested in and about you as a person. This is the compounding value

Tips:

  • Make it easy for people to discover related posts. Use a plugin that lists similar posts, or include links to relevant posts when you write. Encourage people to use categories to browse your archive.
  • Keep writing, even if it’s one tip at a time. Over the years, your archive can become a valuable resource.

5. Rediscovery

I’ve written enough that I don’t remember what I’ve written, and I enjoy rediscovering myself. It’s weird, isn’t it, getting to know yourself like that. I enjoy flipping through my past posts and hearing my past self. She’s very much like me: perhaps a bit deeper into open source (time and the ability to freely participate), less confident in the kitchen, but cheery and reflective all the same. I don’t flip through my archive frequently, but it’s fun to bump into my old self through random posts or “On this Day” posts.

Tips:

  • Write. Yes, even about the everyday things, the little memories. You never know what might make you smile in the future.
  • When you have more posts, try plugins like Random Posts or On This Day to help you bump into older posts.
  • Consider printing out a paper copy of your posts for easier flipping through. I do this every year.
Series Navigation« Get More Value from Blogging, part I: The Immediate Benefits of ThoughtGet More Value from Blogging, part III: Sharing Makes the Blog Go ‘Round »

Get More Value from Blogging, part III: Sharing Makes the Blog Go ‘Round

This entry is part 3 of 8 in the series Get More Value from Blogging

Paul Gillin invited me to do a tweetchat on the professional and personal value of blogging on March 3, 2011 (2pm-3pm EST, #infoboom). When I brainstormed some of the things I’d like to talk about, I ended up with a big list: not just the value I get from blogging, but also tips for how you can build that too. I hope you enjoy this blog series!

After two posts on the individual value you can get from blogging, you might be thinking, “Sacha, you can get those benefits from a private journal too. So why blog?” Now we get into the social benefits of blogging: how you can use it to create value and connect. Even if no one reads your blog but you, you can get started with sharing, and then go from there.


1. Direct

How do you get people to read your posts? Sometimes it’s just a matter of telling them about it. If you’re starting out, you might be worried that no one will come across your blog posts. Even if you’ve got regular visitors, people might miss out on posts that you know they’ll find useful. If you know people who may be interested in a post, go ahead and send it to them.

Move your conversations online. I often write blog posts to answer people’s questions or follow up on conversations, so it’s natural to share those posts directly with people through e-mail, Twitter, or other means. I post answers on my blog as often as possible, saving e-mail for information that’s confidential or of limited value.

Send people you know links they might find useful (but not spammy). In addition to directly sharing posts with the people who inspired them, I also frequently send posts to other people who might find them useful. During a conversation or a Twitter exchange, someone might ask a question about public speaking, Drupal, or any of the other topics I’m interested in. Instead of explaining everything from scratch, I can send links to relevant blog posts where people can learn more.

Tips:

  • Whenever you answer a question or share a tip that could potentially help other people, consider taking a few extra minutes to post it on your blog.
  • When you post an item on your blog, think about specific people who might find it useful, and share it directly with them.

2. Search

One of the advantages of a public blog archive is that it’s searchable. You can write a blog post about a solution to a technical problem, and other people who run into that problem can find your post without knowing you. This is a great way to save other people time.

Making your knowledge searchable saves you time, too. If people can find answers for themselves, they may spend less time asking you questions that you can easily answer. You can use that time to develop your skills further and solve more challenging problems.

Tips:

  • Include details that people might use in their searches. For example, if you’ve solved a technical issue, post the error messages and your solution.
  • Increase the chances of people finding your post by using the kinds of words they would use to search.

3. Browsing

Not only can people find your blog posts by searching, they can also browse at their own pace. Encourage people to explore by organizing your posts in categories and by linking to relevant posts from other posts in your blog. When people can learn from you and get to know you on their own, you can scale up beyond the number of people you can help or get to know in real life.

It’s okay to write about many things. Cross-pollination can lead to fascinating conversations. I often hear from people who discovered my site because of the technical resources I shared. They browsed around, found my sketches and my stories about cooking and life, and got a better sense of who I am as a person. Make it easy for people to find posts on topics they’re interested in, and create opportunities for them to discover other things if they want.

Tips:

  • Whenever you write a blog post, think of relevant posts and resources you can link to in order to help people learn more.
  • Use post titles that are clear, informative, and interesting to encourage people to click on them.

4. Referrals

To grow even further, make it easy for people to share your thoughts with others. Encourage people to think of other people who might find your blog posts useful. Add Twitter, Facebook Like, or other social sharing services to your blog posts.

By making your content easier to share, you help your readers create value for other people, and you reach out to your network’s network. When someone e-mails a friend link to your post, that’s a great referral not only for your content, but also for you. People can also share your material with a wider audience by posting it on Twitter, Facebook, or other sites. They might even write a blog post going into more detail and linking to your resources.

Tips:

  • Add social sharing buttons for Twitter, Facebook, and other sites, and encourage people to share.
  • Keep an eye out for when people share content, and thank them.

5. Learning from others

Sharing your questions, ideas, experiences, and lessons learned with other people is a great way to learn from other people’s insights. When I share what I’m learning, people often share even better ways to do things. Encourage people to comment on your blog posts with questions and tips, and you learn so much in the process of sharing. Make it easy for people to send you e-mail if they have something they would like to share more privately.

For example, when I posted yesterday’s tips on the compounding value of an archive, Mohamed suggested improving it by adding a quote from Donald Knuth. I hadn’t come across that quote before, but it made the post better. People have shared their thoughts on waking up early, doing Lotus Notes mail merges, connecting with people, and so on. Share, and you might learn something from people you wouldn’t have thought of asking.

Tips:

  • Enable comments unless you have a strong reason not to do so. If you’re concerned about spam, you can moderate comments, use spam-blocking plug-ins, or review your comments regularly. You might not get many comments in the beginning, but as you build your network, you’ll find a lot of value in the conversation.
  • Ask questions. Ask people for suggestions, experiences, and tips. Invite people to participate, and show your appreciation when they do.
  • Make it easy to send you mail, either by using the contact form or sharing an e-mail address. If you’re concerned about e-mail spam, create a special e-mail address that you can then filter.
Series Navigation« Get More Value from Blogging, part II: The Compounding Value of an ArchiveGet More Value from Blogging, part IV: Connecting with People »

Get More Value from Blogging, part IV: Connecting with People

This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series Get More Value from Blogging

Paul Gillin invited me to do a tweetchat on the professional and personal value of blogging on March 3, 2011 (2pm-3pm EST, #infoboom). When I brainstormed some of the things I’d like to talk about, I ended up with a big list: not just the value I get from blogging, but also tips for how you can build that too. I hope you enjoy this blog series!

A blog is an incredible way to connect with people. It helps people get to know who you are, what you’re interested in, what you’re good at, who you know, what you’re working on, and any entity till they got to share. Reading a blog, people can find out what you have in common with them, how you can help them, and how they can help you.


1. Introduction

People like getting to know people. When you make a new acquaintance, you might look them up on the Internet to find out more about them. Likewise, people look you up to find out more about you. A blog can be like your self-introduction. Your about page can include a short biography, and your blog posts can provide further details for people who want to know more.

Make it easy for new acquaintances to find your blog by adding it to your e-mail signature, business card, and social networking profiles. That way, people can read your blog to build on a brief introduction. As a result, a prospective client or new acquaintance might discover common ground with you. It speeds up the process of introduction, and simplifies getting to know people.

Don’t count on being anonymous or obscure. If you have a blog that you’d rather people didn’t read, you might have a problem in the future. Even systems with privacy controls can disclose data through programming errors, accidents, or malicious use. Before you post something, think about whether you can deal with the consequences of sharing it. Don’t let that scare you away from sharing, though! People are generally good, and they probably won’t hold minor mistakes against you.

Tips:

  • Add a short biography to your about page. Keep in mind that this may be seen by both professional and personal contacts.
  • Add your blog URL to your e-mail signature, card, social network profiles, and other places people might check.

2. Deepening the connection

How do people go from being acquaintances to colleagues or friends? How can you develop a chance conversation at a networking event into a partnership that last years? Shared experiences and personal knowledge go along way to deepening that connection, and you can help that along through your blog.

I find this aspect of blogging really helpful. It’s difficult for me to e-mail people to stay in touch, because I don’t want to waste people’s time. I’m often pleasantly surprised to hear from people who have kept in touch with me anyway by reading my blog. I appreciate being able to read other people’s blog posts and status updates as a way of finding out more about them without getting in their way. The conversation might grow in this low-key way until it becomes a friendship.

Tips:

  • Post regularly to give people reasons to come back.
  • Make sure that it’s easy to subscribe to your blog through feeds or e-mail.
  • Keep an eye out for people who regularly comment on your blog or talk to you about what you’ve written, and invest time in learning more about them.

3. Appreciation

A thank-you note is good; a public thank-you, done well, is even better. When you share what you’ve learned from people and your appreciation for how they’ve helped, that builds your relationship with those people, inspires others, and reflects well on you. It also helps people confirm what they’ve helped you learn and to share that with others – a great way to pay mentors back.

Tips:

  • Use your blog to show your appreciation for people. Be positive – don’t use it for passive-aggressive “appreciation”!
  • When someone takes the time to mentor you, share your lessons learned if possible. That way, your mentor can check it and share it with others.

4. Reaching out

A blog gives you both a reason and a way to reach out to people. If you’d like to talk to people but you aren’t sure how to start the conversation, you might write about those people on your blog. For example, you could share what you’re learning from them her even from a distance, and what you might want to talk to them about. Many people regularly search for their name, and they might come across your post and start the conversation. It’s an interesting way to meet book authors, thoughtleaders, and other people active on the Internet.

Don’t expect a response, but be ready in case people reach out. Who knows? Maybe you can even ask a question, and maybe people will share a quick answer. It can pay to ask.

Tips:

  • Show your interest, but don’t be creepy. Yes to admiration, no to stalking.
  • If you reach out to people through e-mail, you can mention your blog post about them as a way of sharing what you’ve been learning from them.
  • Look for something of value that you can bring to the conversation, even if it’s a really good question. Don’t reach out just for the sake of getting an e-mail from an A-lister, and don’t beg people for a link back from their blog.

5. The great conversation

Around the world, lots of conversations are happening through blogs. Someone posts an idea. Others write blog posts linking to the first post and sharing their thoughts. Yet others write blog posts following up on those posts. Along the way, people comment on blog posts, share their reactions on Twitter and other social networks, and talk about posts in person or through e-mail.

Participating in the conversation is so much better when you have your own blog. You can write longer posts in it, and you can build an archive of your thoughts. If people think your thoughts are interesting, they can explore your blog to find out more. If your thoughts are sprinkled in comments on different blog posts, it’s harder for others to get that sense of you.

You’ll still want to reach out to other people through commenting on their blogs, of course. Many blogs can automatically detect blog posts that link to them, but it’s nice to leave a comment summarizing your thoughts and thanking people for the inspiration. Don’t make your comments all about you, though! When you’re commenting on people’s blogs, it’s like you’re chatting in their living room. You wouldn’t want to make the conversation all about you. Read comments on other people’s blogs to get a sense of the etiquette. Blatant self-promotion doesn’t work well. Focus on adding value to conversations on other blogs, and link to a relevant blog post if you’ve written about something in more details.

Tips:

  • When you read a blog post that inspires you to think about it, write a blog post and link
  • Look for blogs on topics you’re interested in. Read the comments for a while to get a sense of what the discussion is like. Try posting a few comments. When you find yourself wanting to say more, post those thoughts on your blog, and link to it. (But nicely!)
Series Navigation« Get More Value from Blogging, part III: Sharing Makes the Blog Go ‘RoundGet More Value from Blogging, part V: Communication Matters »

Get More Value from Blogging, part V: Communication Matters

This entry is part 5 of 8 in the series Get More Value from Blogging

Paul Gillin invited me to do a tweetchat on the professional and personal value of blogging on March 3, 2011 (2pm-3pm EST, #infoboom). When I brainstormed some of the things I’d like to talk about, I ended up with a big list: not just the value I get from blogging, but also tips for how you can build that too. I hope you enjoy this blog series!

You might feel awkward in the beginning, but trust me, all that writing practice from your blog will pay off. Blogging is a great way to figure out not only what you want to say, but how you want to say it. Better communication skills will help you at work and in life!


1. Writing

  • Blogging helped me fall in love with writing. I got frustrated in school, writing book reports and essays that didn’t really matter. When I started blogging, I discovered the joy of writing for myself and others. It turned out to be a lot of fun, and now writing is one of my favourite activities. It pays off at work, too.Tips:
  • Practise outlining or mindmapping your blog posts. As you get better at planning your posts, you’ll be able to write them more quickly.
  • Review your old posts and revise them. Figure out what you keep writing about, and summarize or update your posts.
  • Read lots of blogs to get a sense of the kinds of blog posts you enjoy reading. Emulate different styles and challenge yourself to try different techniques.
  • Don’t let perfectionism stop you from writing. Your blog posts may feel like rough drafts, but you’ll get better at writing over time.

2. Visual communication

Whether you’re writing a professional blog or a personal blog, it can be good to add visual interest through photographs or drawings. You can develop an eye for images and visual communication by including Creative Commons-licensed photos or stock photos in your posts, appropriately attributed when necessary. You can also take your own pictures or draw your own illustrations, adding more of a personal touch to your blog while helping you develop your skills.

My blog–and the presentations that grew out of it–helped me rediscover drawing. You can see the evolution of my sketches from scrawny stick-figures on a Nintendo DS to slighly-less-scrawny stick figures on a tablet PC. I’ve come to enjoy drawing, and sometimes people even ask me to draw something for them.

Tips:

  • Add something visual to your blog – either something you made, or a relevant image from the Internet. (Respect copyright.)
  • One way to get better at photography or drawing is to set a public goal of posting a photo or sketch regularly (ex: one photo a day). Give it a try!

3. Presentation

If you give presentations, a blog can be an incredible resource. You can use your blog to draft and share ideas, collect material, get feedback, share your presentation, and follow up with people.

Many of my presentations have grown out of blog posts, and I’ve received a number of invitations to speak from people who’ve come across my posts. My blog gives me a place to try ideas out, refine them, get feedback, and put together presentations.

Tips:

  • Post your presentations and share the URLs when you give presentations. This gives people a way to follow up.
  • Post your outlines and presentation ideas on your blog, and use your blog posts to draft presentations or collect material. This will make it easier to prepare presentations later, and you can learn from other people’s feedback along the way.

4. Conversation

Blogs make conversations so much easier for me. When I talk to people, I often find myself thinking about or referring to things I’ve written. It really helps to have thought about some things and be able to express them clearly, and I love sharing additional resources.

My blog posts have also led to all sorts of conversations I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I sometimes find it difficult to start a conversation. Fortunately, people read my blog and start the conversation with me, both online and in person.

Conversations lead to blog posts, too. There, my blog gives me the opportunity to continue the conversation, reflect on things I’m learning, and share them with a wider audience. I get to show my appreciation for the insights people have shared with me, and I get to learn from other people’s perspectives.

Tips:

  • Write about things people might find useful, then blend these thoughts into your conversations where appropriate.
  • Follow up on conversations in your blog.

5. Avoiding the curse of expertise

Many people don’t want to write about things they don’t feel are their expertise. Experts are experts because they’ve achieved unconscious competence; they’ve forgotten more than other people have learned. Experts often have a hard time explaining things to other people because they’ve forgotten the details that stump newcomers. So experts aren’t really the best people who can write about things, especially for beginners. It’s better to write along the way, while you’re learning, so that people can understand and so that you won’t take things for granted.

Tips:

  • Don’t wait until you’re an expert. Write while you’re learning.
  • Use your archive to remember what it was like to learn something complicated.

 

Series Navigation« Get More Value from Blogging, part IV: Connecting with PeopleGet More Value from Blogging, part VI: Let’s Get Down to Business »

Get More Value from Blogging, part VI: Let’s Get Down to Business

This entry is part 6 of 8 in the series Get More Value from Blogging

Paul Gillin invited me to do a tweetchat on the professional and personal value of blogging yesterday. When I brainstormed some of the things I’d like to talk about, I ended up with a big list: not just the value I get from blogging, but also tips for how you can build that too. I hope you enjoy this blog series!


1. ROI

Blog your work to increase your return on investment or effort by remembering more effectively and by reaching more people.

How much time do you spend solving problems similar to what you’ve encountered before, answering questions you’ve already answered before, or remembering information you need to solve new challenges? Take notes and save that time.

How much time can you save other people if you share your notes with them? Are there other people in your organization, client base, or network who could benefit from your solutions? Share your notes.

Tips:

  • Invest the extra minutes in taking and sharing notes in order to increase your ROI.

2. Questions, updates, resources, and serendipitous conversations

One of the challenges of blogging is that you don’t know who’s going to read it. That’s also one of the advantages. When you ask a question, you might be surprised by who answers it – perhaps someone you wouldn’t have thought of asking. When you post an update, you might make an unexpected connection with someone else, and learn about resources you might not have discovered on your own. When you talk about something you’re working on, you might end up in a serendipitous conversation with someone who can make use of it or help you with it. It’s the online equivalent of the lucky hallway chat, except with a lot more people in the virtual hallway.

Tips:

  • Make it easy for people to discover your updates or even subscribe to them.

3. Connection

If you add personal touches to your professional blog, you can make it easier for potential clients and coworkers to connect with you through common interests. Write about why you do the work that you do and what you love about it. Write about your other interests, too.

Tips:

  • Don’t be afraid of bringing your personality to your blog. Use it to connect with people.

Example:


4. Reputation

Blog your work to build your reputation. When people read about what you’re working on, they learn about your skills and get a sense of who you are as a person. The next time they come across a challenge that looks like it’s a good fit, they might think of you and refer the opportunity to you. Particularly if you’re starting out, sharing your knowledge will help you build your network and your reputation.

Tips:

  • Use your blog to demonstrate your skills and your character.
  • Invest time into building thought leadership through blog posts, articles, and presentations.

5. Jobs and careers

A blog can help you look for a great job or plan your career. Use it to explore your strengths and figure out how to communicate them. Use it to think about what kinds of companies would be a good fit for you, and where you would be a good fit. Use it to connect with people and ask them for help. Use it to reflect on where you want to go with your career and what kind of value you want to create.

Tips:

  • Don’t beg for a job. Use your blog to communicate strength, passion, and professionalism.
  • Build a network of mentors and friends. Connect with people and ask them for advice.

6. Accountability and transparency

Blogging is a great way to make public commitments and hold yourself to them. You can use this for both personal and professional goals..

If you speak on behalf of a company, then you definitely need a fast way to respond to any issues that come up. With the speed of conversation on Twitter and blogs, you can’t wait for press releases. Establish this channel before a public relations crisis comes up. It’s better to admit a mistake and work with people on resolving it than to stonewall.


7. Culture

Whether you’re an executive or a newcomer, you can influence the culture of your organization through what you share. When you share what you know through your blog, you encourage a culture of knowledge-sharing. When you add a personal touch, you contribute to a culture of human connection. When you show that you aren’t afraid of making mistakes and learning from them, you develop a culture of growth. This can have a powerful effect on your organization, both online and offline.

Tips:

  • Consider the fit between how you want to write and what the existing culture is. Be prepared for differences, and modify your approach accordingly. For example, if you want to shift your surrounding culture to share more, anticipate and address people’s concerns.
  • If you’re a leader, take the initiative in demonstrating the kind of company culture you want to encourage.

 

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