Monday, August 13, 2007

Blogging tech on the Potomac

While no major government contractor has launched a blog, small companies and individual consultants have been blogging for years. Their reasons for doing so range from marketing their services to contributing to the industry. I decided to ask the tech bloggers of Tech on the Potomac why they blog, and this is what they said:

Martin Ringlein of Maryland Media Blog:
“I’ve got two objectives with this blog; to give information and to gain information – it is all about insight.”


Tony Byrne of CMS Watch, who blogs at Trendlines:
“I blog because I have opinions. I want to share them. This is not catharsis, but rather a mechanism for connecting more deeply with CMS Watch customers. They may purchase our evaluation reports, but they want to know the people and the company behind those reports, and also, perhaps, validate that we really know what we are talking about before investing in our research. Our blog has really been the best mechanism -- short of face-to-face interaction -- for that.”


Shahid Shah who blogs at Shahid’s Perspectives, Healthcare IT Guy and maintains the HITSphere community:
I blog to:

* Establish credibility so that potential clients know that I know what I'm doing
* Market myself and have people call me instead of me reaching out to new clients (beats advertising)
* Share my thoughts with the community to do "market testing" of my ideas to see if they're useful
* Record what's happening in the industry so that I and others can come back when we need historical data

In response to my inquiry, Mike of 18th Street Software and Mike-o-Matic blog sent the following:
I would like to promote the local blogosphere too, particularly the technical and computer-oriented blogs. In this city we have a huge concentration of people doing technical work, but they are very quiet compared to the folks in tech hubs like San Francisco and Boston.

I started out writing to try to find my own voice and raise my profile (a little) in my industry. I was impressed by writers like Paul Graham and Joel Spolsky, and how they were able to communicate so clearly what those of us in the IT world feel. It's amazing when you read something by someone who "gets it," and it often clarifies your own thinking on the topic since you become more receptive to what they are saying. I hope in some small way I can give others similar Eureka! moments.

As far as how blogging has helped my career, I can only say it has hurt it. :). The only time it has been mentioned by a potential employer was when they took exception to an article I wrote about my workplace style. I don't really have any regrets though, since any place that is that sensitive would be really difficult to work at long term.

Blogging can promote community on occasion, but a lot of that depends on context and the actual bloggers in question. Sometimes blogging can move off-line. My roommate recently flew to Chicago to attend a conference for one of her favorite political blogs, so I have seen some of this off-line crossover firsthand. I also had a chance to reconnect with a friend of mine when I tripped over his blog, marylandmedia.com.

I have noticed that blogging communities don't seem to follow local boundaries, and are more related to how the various authors publish their work. Being an avid joelonsoftware.com reader, I started using his reddit.com board to post my articles and developed relationships with people on there. They commented on my work and reposted it, and I did the same for them. We had a small community, even though we were actually located all over the world.


Mike is the only one who indicated that blogging may have hurt his career. It is a legitimate concern and I am sure many individuals and companies are holding back for just this reason. As more and more join blogosphere I think those concerns will dissipate.

Dr. Keith Casey of Casey Software and Casey Software blog sent the following:
Good to hear from you... I've talked about different aspects of the
"benefits of blogging" numerous times:

http://caseysoftware.com/blog/book-review-clear-blogging
http://caseysoftware.com/blog/blogging-strategy

I think the point of blogging is two fold:
* First, I demonstrate that I have a clue. As a consultant, salesman, or even as interview candidate, you only get a few minutes to make your case. When they can find page after page or month after month of opinions, analysis, and information, it shows a different deeper side
than you can get in a handful of meetings.

* Second, I use it to keep the sword sharp. I learn from articles and information passed to me and by passing the same to others. Hopefully this growth in understanding and technical/communication skills is visible in my writing.

Argyn Kuketayev of One Nomad’s Blog gave a very different reason:
I'm sure you'll get all sorts of different reasons. I'll give you one which I didn't see mentioned often:

To remember where's what in Internet.

Google has changed the "internet experience", you no longer have to remember URLs, Google knows them all, you can always find them. right? wrong! Sometimes I struggle to find something which I found once using Google. So my blog's for those URLs which I think that I might need in the future, it's like a diary and a notebook.

Actually, that is one of the reasons I started blogging. If I saw an item that interested me, one I thought I might want to refer back to, I just linked it from my blog. Now I use my del.icio.us tags for that.

I blog for started blogging for same reason Phil Gomes did, to build relationships with the reporters who cover my area of practice. I also wanted a showcase for my work. Blogging has exceeded my highest expectations. Large contractors are still hesitating, but I think they will be pleasantly surprised the minute they give blogging a chance.

Edit -
Russ Salters sent his reasons for blogging after I posted -
I write BetterECM for a couple of reasons.

First, the blog provides a way for me to share information, presentations, white papers, etc with my readers and folks that attend conferences and seminars that I present at.

Secondly, writing my blog helps me gather, solidify, and articulate my thoughts and ideas related to my industry focus on enterprise content management. The other benefit of writing my blog is gathering feedback and input from my readers to validate new thinking and ideas. Some of the best suggestions come from my readers.

4 comments:

Shahid N. Shah said...

Thanks for summarizing this, Alice. It should give some much needed advice to people who are on the fence and probably should be blogging, too.

Alice said...

I hope so, it would be nice to have some of the larger players like Booz Allen or SAIC.

Dave Cassidy said...

Very nice summary, Alice. I blog for many of these same reasons, and now my company does the same. We've found it to be an excellent way to connect with customers and, more importantly, the broader community. It's that community, that network that lends me and our company credibility in the marketplace. The only reason I can see for not blogging is that you have nothing interesting to say or offer.

Geoff_Livingston said...

I'm just a flat out addicted writer who has found his medium.