Why do I blog? What do I get out of blogging? What have I learned along the way and why should you blog? As the year wraps up and my first full year of blogging ends, I wanted to share some of the lessons I’ve learned, some pointers to advice I’ve gotten and really just encourage you to start blogging.

This is part 1 of a 4 part series.

Part 0 The first part of a video chat with Brent Ozar – Hosted over at Brent’s place. Brent blogs at BrentOzar.com, edits SQLServerPedia and is quite the active twitterer as @BrentO. His blog helped inspire me to get blogging and we’ll talk about his experience with blogging and extract some advice and lessons. Might even throw in some humor (other than you looking at us, which really is funny by itself, no?) Much of which he and I talk about about comes from posts of his in his blogging category.

Part 1 – “Why Should I blog?” – You are here, so read along and you’ll see the point.

Part 2 – “How do I blog?” – Some tips and tricks that I have learned as I started and continue this journey, perhaps it might help you.

Part 3 – “Interview with Brent Ozar – Part 2” – The second part of the video chat with Brent, hosted on my blog this time.

Subscribe to my feedburner feed in your favorite RSS reader to get notified of the pending posts and the second half of the video interview. You will also catch a couple posts I am working on for the end of December or beginning of January that  will detail the steps I am going through as I move this blog to a WordPress platform including some of the steps I first took.

Why Did I Start Blogging?

I was toying with the idea of blogging for a couple of years before I started. I enjoy sharing knowledge, learning through teaching and thought I could at least give it a shot… BUT… Each time I thought of it I backed down. Perhaps I was afraid of not being an expert among experts, perhaps afraid of falling flat on my face and wasting time (mine or yours). Finally at the end of 2008, I convinced myself those weren’t good excuses and started on the assumption, “what do I have to lose?”

Those were my primary motivations, teaching, sharing and learning. Add to them the fact that I enjoy writing (still working on being more concise) and enjoy “teachable opportunities” when they come up. In my day job, I like sharing knowledge and watching someone else grow. When answering the occasional newsgroup, forum or coworker question, I like to try and answer some of the question beneath the asked question. What better extension to this than blogging?

Why Do I Still Blog?

I dove in last December and started this blog because of the above. Why did I continue? Why do I continue, and plan on continuing? A few reasons:

  • It’s fun -> I enjoy it. I enjoy looking at “lowlights” at work with the lens of, “hey! that would make an interesting blog topic!”
  • I haven’t been told to stop -> I am no Brent Ozar, Paul Randal, Steve Jones, etc. who all blog regularly. Even still, I haven’t been told to stop. In fact I’ve been surprised that some posts were picked up in the various newsletters or in weekly link roundups from other, more established, bloggers among some really awesome posts that taught me a lot.
  • I’ve helped people -> From some comments, contacts on the contact us page or in person “hey thanks!” kind of situations I’ve realized that I am  helping folks. I see search engine traffic that seems to indicate relevant posts were found in web searches from people having problems. It feels good to know that someone might not go through the same pain I did trying to figure a problem out.
  • I’ve learned -> We’ll talk about that in a minute but through wanting to be accurate in my posts, I’ve learned – always increasing my own knowledge while sharing.
  • It feels good to give back -> For 10 years now I’ve gained a lot of knowledge from other bloggers, presenters and authors. I’ve grown my own career to a solid core (always growing and always realizing I know less than I thought I di.) I can hold my own and feel comfortable going in as a subject matter expert to a firm having serious trouble with SQL Server. This is in large part because of  the free learning and tips/tricks provided to me by the SQL Community. My original fear of not being helpful was looking at the wrong perspective: I was afraid of trying to write to the Paul Randal, Kalen Delaney, Adam Machanic, Andy Kelly, etc audience. What a mistake! They are in the minority, that’s why we turn to them. There are far more folks like me (10 years, finally at the stage of admitting how little you know) and a lot more folks just starting out in the field. That is the audience I am giving to. Sure, some posts may apply to the hyperexperts in the field and that would be humbling if it ever happens, but there is a wide audience out there.

Learning Through Teaching

It has been my experience that the people who say you learn through teaching are not dead accurate. If you were to draw a lifecycle of learning I think it would look something like learning –> understanding –> using –> “really understanding” –> Teaching –> understanding even more and then it goes back to Learning as you go the next level or skill.

Every time I teach something to someone, be it training a new hire, teaching a custom course to a client, mentoring development or administration staff or writing a blog post, I learn even more. Why?

I don’t want to present inaccurate information. I want to have answers to some of the potential questions that could get asked and I want to go a bit deeper with the “how and why” behind the initial “how and why” (I’ve talked about that in some of my other posts. I have a hard time just knowing something is because it is, I like going to the next level and reducing things to their quarks, leptons and strings – or beyond… That’s why a simple wikipedia trip ends up with 30 browser tabs open)

Talk about a huge motivator for blogging. Every time I write a post (be it a technical how to or a professional development minded lesson from life), I learn something new. Sometimes I learn about a nuance of SQL Server. Sometimes I learn a new way to apply a better professional or personal trait to life or my job.

Problems Become Opportunities

I could be sitting through a crisis with no end in sight looking for motivation. Now before I blogged, the motivation was “solving the problem” and that is a great motivation. It still motivates me, I love being a part of a winning team and love the feeling when you kick a problem into last week. Now, I have one more motivation in a bad situation – “Oooh! I can blog about this!” Maybe it’s a technical challenge that will help someone. Maybe it’s something stupid I did. Maybe it’s a really bad example of how to run a project or “plan” for something. I have a running e-mail conversation with myself in my e-mail account called “Blog Fodder”. When I think of something I shoot myself an e-mail so I don’t forget about it and get it out there if I think it will give value to someone, somewhere.

IF ‘me’ THEN ‘you’ ELSE ‘no one’

If you haven’t caught on to the theme  above, it’s simple: I want to encourage you to blog also. The primary audience on my blog is SQL Server knowledge but this applies to you no matter what technical knowledge you have. If you have experience doing something, have used your skill set in some manner to solve some problem then you may have information that someone else needs. I am updating this post today because I was reading a great Andy Leonard post, “Blog Durnit!” Andy blogs over at SQLBlog.com and one of his pearls if wisdom in that post applies here, “Come on. Seriously? If you think, you can blog.”

I am not a SQL Server MVP. I don’t have my name on any books. I still manage to find a modest audience that I can share my experience and knowledge with. I know you can also so if you have been thinking about doing it, stop thinking about it and DO it.

Now don’t go into it for the wrong motives. Don’t go into it looking to make gobs of money (you won’t and why would I want to read your content if your primary motivation is making money?). Don’t go into it looking to spend 3-5 minutes copying and pasting something from Books Online. Go into it hoping to share some useful information with someone looking for that information. Do that and you’ll do just fine.

An Invitation (Guest Posting)

It’s easy. If you don’t want to go through the steps to setup a domain or even just get a blogging account on one of the free blog sites, you are welcome to try your hand here and add a guest post. If you setup your own blog someday, have a twitter handle, etc. we can get it linked back to your own blog and twitter profile. In fact, if you are an established blogger and ever want to do a guest post here or get some guest posters, leave a comment and let folks know how to reach you. Link to your blog and I’ll post a follow up linking back to you for people thinking of blogging. I’ll link that post here also.

A disclaimer: I am not the most widely read blog out there (In this first year of blogging I have had just over 20k unique views and just shy of 40k total page views). For people reading on feed readers, feedburner tells me I’ve averaged around 40 subscribers since starting the feed in February (the trend is around 60-70 lately) and on the Syndicated feed with SQLServerPedia, Feedburner tells me I’ve had 25k feed views (Compare that to the 5k views on the main feed.. Talk about increasing audience through SQLServerPedia syndication!). These are small potatoes compared to many of the SQL legends out there but you’ll get an audience of some sort and it’s a smaller, more intimate crowd for now 😉

Now before you accept that invite to write a guest post here,go see how easy it is to get started for free. Go to WordPress (the .com variety for now) or Blogger and sign up for a free account. Think of a blog name and use a free blog to get started if you prefer. I don’t care how you get there, just get there soon.

I know there are folks who would review your post if you want. Brent and I discuss this in our interview also.

If you decide to start blogging, be sure to add a comment here with a link to your blog. I’d love to check it out!

Referenced & Related Posts

Andy Leonard (Andy Leonard on Twitter) – Offers more motivation on blogging.

Brent Ozar – Started a whole series on his “Blog Better Week” tips. Check out the first post on How to build your blogging momentum and then have fun reading the follow-on posts linked together.

Problogger – Subtitled about helping you make money blogging, this site still offers a lot of great tips to someone thinking about blogging.

Problogger – One of their post series was on 31 days of tips to improve your blog. They also sell a workbook called  31 days to improve your blog. I haven’t used the workbook but I have used the tips in the first link. Good stuff.

DomesticatingIT – A good blog with a wide range of IT and marketing topics but a consistent focus on Social Networking. A good post about Social Media Strategies Laid Bare can apply to our blogging, also.

This Blogs Feed – Using a feed reader is a great way to get updated of blog content. The next posts in this series will show up there as they are posted.

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