Blogging was quite a trend a few years ago, but with the rise of Facebook & Twitter, it’s fallen out of favor with some. Well, I’m here to tell you that you should open your own blog today, and if you own a blog but haven’t posted in a while … you should come back to it and post some more.
There are several reasons for maintaining a blog, some of which I’m sure are relevant to you:
Reason 1 – A technical memento to your future self
I found out today how to do something cool. In a year, I won’t remember how to do it … but I might remember it enough to know what to look for. Once I’ve blogged about something, if I Google for it in the future I often find my own blog post, and save myself a considerable amount of time.
There are other venues for such mementos-to-self, but none as indexable and expressive as a blog post. Facebook content is poorly searchable … I searched for something I posted 2 days ago on Facebook and failed to find it except going over my stream/timeline. Twitter is very limiting … I guess it might be good for something, but not for keeping concrete knowledge about how to solve a problem, except that knowledge is just a link.
You could post a Stack Overflow or Quora question, and answer it, but that feels kind of akward. Actually, Quora has Boards which are rather similar to blogs for this purpose.
Reason 2 – Why not share the love?
An immediate followup to Reason#1 – if you worked hard and found out something, why not share it and save some time for other people who might run into the same problem? It’s just being a good citizen, and it doesn’t cost you more effort to share it rather than keep it in a private knowledge base e.g. Evernote / Google Docs. If you’ve ever Googled and found a blog post that solved your problem – now is your time to give something back.
Reason 3 – Professional Resume
Your blog tells the world about you. Whenever I interview for a job, the first thing on my resume is my blog. It shows that I am passionate about my profession. Even if your blog is just a collection of links, it shows what kind of technology stack you’re using or interested in, what your beliefs are, and what makes you tick. I’ll give a candidate with a personal blog a big +1 over a candidate without a blog any time. It takes courage to go out there and say “Even though I’m not worthy, I’m still out here, doing, writing, and sharing. I’m not the best software engineer / biologist / whatever in the world … but I’m trying my best, and I want to share it with you”.
Reason 4 - Alzheimer
This is an extension of reason 1. Reason 1 was about forgetting technical stuff … but as the years pass, you don’t just forget technical stuff, you forget who you were. Your life isn’t lived by a single personality, but is rather experienced by an endless series (or continuum) of personalities, each slightly different than the ones before it. I hardly remember what things we like twenty years ago … but I do know that 5 years ago, I felt the immense joy of leaving the army, didn’t like Google for a day, and had loads of fun playing Portal.
I recently started maintaining, in addition to this blog and social media accounts, a personal record of how each day worked out for me. My setup is simple – I setup a Google Calendar event to send me a daily reminder at 7 PM each day. I forward this reminder to Evernote, and prefix it with a number between 1 and 5 of “how much I enjoyed this day”, plus a one liner of key events that happened. I have a grand plan to one day go over these notes, chart out my happiness graph, and note any specific events … but for the time being I’m recording.
A blog can serve to record part of your history – the part you’re willing to be public about, of course. I picture my kids, ten or twenty years from now, reading through my blog (yeah right, all hundreds of entries :), to learn who their father was back on 2012, when we didn’t have hovercrafts and teleportation. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t, but I know that I would have been happy if my parents had kept such a diary.
Reason 5 – Helping semi-distant friends keep in touch
I have 267 friends on Facebook … guess with how many I actually keep in touch in real life? I guess maybe ten-fifteen max, and the real number is probably more close to five. But, thanks to Facebook, I get to not lose my other friends completely. Even though I don’t spend enough time with them, I get occasional glimpses of their lives.
The problem with social networks is you can’t possibly keep up with everything … I even miss cool posts like this one because they’re swallowed up in a huge stream of noise.
A part of the fix is blogging. When you have a blog, I’ll follow it with my trusty Google Reader, and it won’t get swallowed up, because I do read or glance everything in my reader stream. So please, if you’re a friend of mine, do me a personal favor and blog – I want to keep in touch with you!
Please, don’t give me bullshit like “You don’t have anything worth writing about” or “You’re not a good enough writer”. Perfect is the enemy of good … just start by writing something, it’s better by any definition than not writing anything. If you care about it, work on your writing and save up interesting bits to write later (I was saving the idea for this post for a couple of months now, until I got the time and energy to write it). Stuff happens in your life, both personal & professional. Save up the good parts, and write … your future self + children will thank you later.