Friday, October 24, 2008

Some Thoughts on Blogging

I started this blog only ten days ago feeling very exposed and vulnerable. But, the only way you can learn about something like this is to try it. And so I did. Now I have a little more insight and thought I should offer some of my thoughts. I think blogging is a great idea and here is why.

First, consider a blog in which a person writes routinely but nobody ever reads it. It there any value in that? I think so. In fact, I think there is great value in writing a blog even if nobody every reads it. About a decade ago, I started a daily journal in which I would write every morning. My goal was to write around 500 – 1000 words a day. It was great writing practice and I think my writing is much stronger today as a result. But, there were further benefits beyond writing practice. Writing every morning sharpened my thinking and helped me organize my thoughts. So, I am also a much more organized and disciplined thinker today as a result. So writing everyday or even a couple times a week had merit.

You might ask, “what is the point in writing if nobody ever reads it?”. And, I have an answer to that. In fact, I will answer it with another question. “What is the point in expending energy if no work is actually done?” When we exercise we do not produce useful work. People living a century or more ago had to expend their energies to do work. Today, we don’t. And yet we still need the exercise to stay healthy and to stay in shape. So, we exercise. We expend seemingly pointless energy with no other goal than to stay in shape. Writing a journal or a blog that nobody reads is the same. You do it for the exercise. If you want to stay mentally in shape, or you want to maintain your ability to express yourself, then you need to write whether anyone reads it or no.

Next, consider a blog that people do read. Writing a blog that people actually read is like letting people watch you exercise. It adds the additional burden of being watched. What is the justification for the extra burden? I think the benefit of having a blog that people do read is that it provides a full length mirror for the things that go on in your head. Just as you might ask someone “how do I look in this suit?” or “does my new haircut look OK?”, you need to offer your thoughts to other people for validation. In days gone by, people might hang out in the general store, the barber shop, or even in a bar. They would offer their ideas to each other and get feedback. Today, we tend to hang out a lot less and have lost the environs for having our thoughts validated. That is where the blog comes in. I write my thoughts in the blog. You read them. If you have any reaction, you might tell me the next time you see me. You might send me an email. Or you might respond in the blog itself. Whatever the mechanism, the blog provides a vehicle for me to test out ideas and get feedback.

Finally, consider a blog, which is a compendium of your thoughts, that allows people who want to get to know you to catch up quickly. Suppose you meet somebody new and are on the verge of engaging in some interaction, social or professional, and want to get to know them better. One way would be to ask their friends. But, that can be rather hit or miss. Instead, if you go to their blog and read what they have written you may get far greater insight into who they are. In addition, you can challenge what you read in the blog. I would not do to say “I spoke to your friend Bob and he says you are unreliable.” However, it would be perfectly OK to say “You wrote in your blog that people rely too heavily on you. What did you mean by that?”

So, blogging seems to have some redeeming value and I guess I will keep doing it.


Donny said...

Good point, John. I've been blogging for quite a while now and I still am loving it.

Abhishek Navlakha said...

Got your blog link from the Facebook profile. I agree with each point that you have mentioned in the post. I started blogging with the same intention - to give it a try. And I started with personal posts in the blog. However, later I realized that writing personal stuff made me complain a lot and so I stopped writing personal posts. My posts are now more technical or just a compilation of some music I like.