why do i blog?

.. and I could not think of any reason why I would want to give free information to the anonymous general public.

I asked a colleague if he had a public blog and this quote was from his answer.  (used with permission.)  We both blog at work so I was a little surprised to hear that.  I thought about replying, but it makes a perfect blog post.  So here we are.

Why did I start blogging?

I’ve been posting at JavaRanch/CodeRanch since 2003.  I had thought of starting a blog but didn’t feel I would write often enough to warrant one. In 2008,  Scott asked me to be a contributing author on his blog, selikoff.net.  Fifteen months ago, he invited me as a co-author.

Why do I enjoy blogging?

I like to write.  I like to share knowledge/ideas/information.  I still don’t write often/regularly enough here to warrant having my own blog.  But that’s ok.  Scott and I provide a nice balance and variety of topics.  I even got an iPad so I add Apple topics too.  I also have an internal corporate blog which I write to about twice a month.  I use this one for my general information/JavaRanch projects/robotics topic.

What do I get out of blogging?

Pretty much the same things I get out of JavaRanch:

  • the opportunity to share information – I noticed very little information on the Core Spring 3 certification so I added a lot after I took the exam.
  • the opportunity to help others struggling with a problem – I encountered some surprises while setting up the BlackBerry simulator so I wrote about it to help others.
  • the opportunity to get feedback on ideas – or give.  One of our top five blog posts of all time is my reply to Kathy Sierra‘s tweet stream about female programmers.
  • the opportunity to interact with other strong technical people in the field
  • the opportunity to get corrected in a “safe” setting (it’s not like work where you are going to get in trouble for taking a risk) so I can learn more
  • a place to post things I know multiple people will ask me so I don’t have to keep writing answers to the same questions – whether it is a tool choice for Subversion or why you need to defend the code, it is write once and read thousands of times.
  • respect as a strong technical person
  • surprise opportunities that I never would have expected like quoted on the back cover of EJB 3 in Action, being a reviewer on the OCPJP certification book and being a speaker at the upcoming Server Side Java Symposium (extra $200 off with the code listed here.)

I wrote this list as a stream of consciousness thing and then went back to add examples.  I’m pleasantly surprised how many times I used the word opportunity.  I was also excited to see that each thread I linked to as an example has at least two thousand hits.

Why the quote surprised me

A few key words jumped out at me.  Let’s look at them one at a time.

  1. “free information” – Have you ever googled an error message?  Many of the hits that come up are blogs or message boards.  Granted some of them are people who are paid by Oracle/IBM/etc to be there.  But most are not.  They are people sharing free information.
  2. “anonymous” – Networking is all about talking to people you don’t know.  In the real world, you walk into a room and there are many people who quietly listen.  Which is fine.  Then there are the leaders who make things happen.  You get to meet more of those people if you are contributing information to the larger tech world.
  3. “general public” – Having those connections to people I don’t work with is incredibly valuable.  This is more so for JavaRanch than this blog.  Although I do think the amount of reputation/goodwill I have built up come from both.  When I am stuck on something, nobody I work with knows what to do and I really need help, having those contacts is priceless.

Culture differences

I work for a bank where intellectual property comes up as a term.  I am very careful not to let any work information/projects leak out.  (That’s why I have a work blog; for the things I can’t make public.)  Sometimes I’ll play with a tool/technology at home first so I can blog about it here.  Or sometimes I’ll play with something home because I want to try it out before a conservative place like a bank gets to it.

I do understand the feeling of not sharing information with the “outside world”.  But that’s for information that my employer owns or pays me to learn.  For things I do on my own time, why not?

Conclusion

I enjoy blogging/information sharing and I look forward to continuing to do so.

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