Yesterday marked my 1,000th blog post, so I have decided that for my 1,001st post I would write about what I have learned from blogging over the past six years. So below, in no particular order, are some of my learnings from blogging:
- My blog is me: All thoughts on my blog are my own, and I find it liberating that I can express them in my own way. The word "blog" is short for "Web Log" which is essentially a diary on the web. I like to record what I have done and write about things that I see and do. I have only ever kept a paper diary once - this was for the year 2000 when I got a present of a Whoseday Book. I updated this every day and sometimes look back on it to see what I was doing on a specific day. I do the same with my blog.
- Careful What You Write, Eugene: Blogging by its nature forces people to be careful about what they write - it's the same with me. I check for spelling and grammar all the time to ensure that I don't look foolish and careless. But I also try to express myself in a way that readers will want to read. I try not to use bad language, and avoid any comments that could lead me to being sued. I am also careful to not be seen to be blogging at times when I should be doing something else (it's lunch time as I am writing this!)
- Reference, Reference, Reference: In the last couple of years I have been better at referencing. I have always used hyperlinks to other sources, but I also now use quotation marks and italics for direct quotes, attribute content to others where necessary, and give the source of items like graphics I use. This is simply the right thing to do, and I have learned to do it better
- Choosing topics: I blog about anything, and sometimes it is not easy to come up with a topic. Items like reviewing a movie or describing a family event are easy. But at other times I am stumped about something to write and I need inspiration from somewhere. I'll look up on-line news for ideas, or if there is something like an election on I generally have a go at writing about this as if I was a journalist. A good source of ideas is Twitter where I can get dozens of relevant ideas from the people I follow
- Engaging with Others: Blogging allows me to share and communicate ideas with others. I get many comments on posts I write - some of them are supportive while others often take me to task on what I write. It's important to remember that not everybody is going to agree with me all the time, so I accept (and publish) other peoples comments even if I don't like them
- Not a Lot of People Read my Blog: Occasionally people will say to me "I read your blog...", and it's nice when this happens. The number of views are growing on a monthly basis - last December was the highest so far at 9,492 views. Most of these are as a result of Google searches. Since Analytics have become available in 2008, "eugenes blog" is the most searched term that drives traffic to the blog
- Content is King: Management in SmartForce when I worked there (1989-2002) used to bore the pants off us by saying "Content is King". It's only now that I realise that this is at least partially true. Posts that attract the highest views are generally about things that people want to read about - no surprise there. Very few people care about what I think of the musical Oliver! (which I reviewed here), but one of my more recent posts about the Higher Education Landscape (see here) has been read by 380 people in 17 days. As I wrote yesterday, my blog is a personal treasure trove of content
- Blogging has Established me as an Authority and Expert: (Or at least has gone some way to doing this). The traditional route for an academic to prove their authority and expertise over subject matter was to get a PhD, publish papers, and teach. Of these three I only can say that I do two - I do not write research papers any more. Blogging is an alternative outlet for academics to publish and express their opinion. And it is faster too. A published paper in a peer-reviewed journal will take several months (even years) from start to finish. A blog post can be written in an hour, and shared with your peers instantly. I predict that in years to come, a more important question at academic interviews than "How many peer-reviewed papers have you published?" will be "What do you blog about?"