I’ve tried several times to start this essay using various hot ticket items as a starting point and in the end I hit the delete button and come back to the why’s and wherefore’s of why I started blogging. Not that the idea of sharing my thoughts or points of view was anything new for me. After all when you’ve been around computers as long as I have; going on the better part of 20 years, you see a lot of the next big thing‘s come and go.
Long before blogs and even the Internet there was FidoNet which was a network of bulletin board services that hosted conversation groups known as echos. This was my first introduction to online expression of opinions and it was my mainstay until the Internet became the persuasive entity that it is today; but it was an easy transition from them to the NNTP newsgroups both the public (USENET) and the private ones – even to the point that I ran my own set of NNTP newsgroups which where the foundation of what WinExtra is today.
It is through this that I got my first taste of what a true online community is but it still didn’t satisfy that urge to stand alone and express my opinions and thoughts about the technology that I was growing up with. So I branched out to a website for WinExtra where I thought I could do just that; but this was before blogs and even before packages like DotNetNuke and the like. This was the time of HTML and uploading individual pages and hoping you got your syntax right the first time around.
Was this blogging? Probably not given the terminology today for the practice and definitely not given the software; or lack of it, being used. What it did do though was wet my appetite for when the real thing came along the only thing wrong was that I didn’t catch on early enough what was happening. The reason for this was because like most people who want; or need, to get their words out I was trying to hard to find an identity or more to the point what it was exactly I wanted to talk about.
After all, being involved with computers and software for as long as I have you tend to lose sight of the trees sometimes; and when you suddenly find a way to easily publish your thoughts you don’t know where to begin or how to be selective for that identity you have chosen. This can be seen with just about any Technorati search or even a Google search. The white noise of banal nothingness to the inevitable splogs it is there and has made the professionalization of this new citizen journalism all the harder.
This is not to say that all blogs need to be news oriented. One can still have a blog and post totally personal opinions or post about things you have a passion about. What is important is being professional about it and living up to a commitment; even if to only yourself, that if you have set boundaries and timetables for your blog then make sure you keep them. As my father told me when I started up my first business many years ago – “If you are going to set business hours then make sure you are there for those hours – even if you only twiddle your thumbs”
Professionalism is keeping to a posting schedule because once you start people as they find you will come to expect your posts to be there on time. You start posting daily then you better have the gumption to keep at it daily, if you post weekly then make darn sure that every week on that day you have something posted. If you don’t you will as far as your dwindling readers are concerned have become part of the white noise and once you have it is harder to get them back.
Lockstep with professionalism is finding / creating your identity; or niche, because without that focus it is so easy to find yourself flailing like a madman and not getting anywhere. I have gone through this phase many times unfortunately and I know it can take some very serious stepping back and re-examining what it is exactly you want a specific blog to achieve as an outlet. Remember in this day and age you aren’t limited to just one and no I won’t trot out any Forrest Gump sayings here.
Once you have settled on your identity for a specific blog the hard work of sticking to it starts and trust me it isn’t easy especially for anyone with a broad range of interest or knowledge. People come to read you because of the subject (or narrow range of related subjects) you are writing about and the passion you bring to your writing. If you find yourself branching out into a subject area that is beyond the blog’s scope then start a new one don’t let your readers feel like they’ve stumbled into jumbled mess.
Another really important thing as well is don’t rest on your laurels of knowledge that first brought you your readers. Be willing to learn. Find blogs, website or even god forbid real books that will help you learn and grow so you can continue to offer your readers new things. Keep in mind there is always someone out there who might know the same things you do but keeps stretching their knowledge and it won’t take long for your readers to switch.
I believe that blogging has become more than just words in the ether of ones and zeros. It is very quickly becoming the knowledgebase of mankind for our time. Does this mean that next week, next year that it won’t be replaced by something else better. Chances are yes it will but in the meantime you have a chance to add your two cents to the knowledgebase just do it with professionalism and passion.