Since I started this blog in May of 2005, I have come back to reflect on blogging a few times, most recently this last May. I received some interesting comments to that posting. One pointed out that "You know that someone has run out of things to say when they start blogging about blogging . . . Stick to writing about innovation . . ." But then other comments said "I'm planning to start blogging and that was some valuable insight . . ."; "I appreciate the focus on important issues. Including . . . the necessary introspection as we all try to understand this new form of communication."; and "Blogging is still so relatively new that I find there is a lot of interest out there in learning more about it." So, with your forbearance, I'd like to once more spend some time reflecting on this young form of communications.
There definitely seems to be a lot of interest out there in learning more about blogs and their influence on society. Blogs, for example, are playing an increasing role in political campaigns as evidenced by the recent defeat of three-term Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman by newcomer Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary, which quite a few attributed to the influence of blogs. And as I discussed in a recent posting, a business can take quite a public relations hit when disgruntled customers decide to take matters into their own hands through their blogs.
Furthermore, I find that because this is all so new, quite a few people are very interested in discussing what blogging is all about. To many, the fact that millions seem to enjoy blogging is a mystery confounding common wisdom as much as the rise of open source communities. They wonder where the time and energy come from. Why do you do it? What's in it for you? It is clear that quite a few are contemplating whether this blogging is something they should take on themselves, as I did for some years before finally taking the plunge.
I find that the discussions get even more interesting when I tell people that not only does IBM tolerate my blog but that it actually encourages its employees to blog as long as they follow a set of common sense guidelines, a position increasingly taken by businesses around the world.
But perhaps, no group likes to talk about blogging as much as people who do it. A few weeks ago, for example, over a nice lunch in the Bay area, I had a very interesting discussion about blogging and blogging styles with Tom Foremski, former technology reporter for the Financial Times. About two years ago Tom resigned his FT position and started his own blog-based business - Silicon Valley Watcher.
We both quickly agreed that the definition of blogging is very broad and encompasses a wide variety of styles and content, much like the Web itself. In fact, Tom wonders whether the term is still useful, since it is not clear what a blog is and is not. He added that "It is about the ease of online publishing using a very robust platform, with the ability to publish outwards and publish back--it's a two-way media technology."
I think that the key difference between a blog and other kinds of web sites is their personal nature. In your blog, you are making the implicit promise that you are personally writing the content and that you are writing about subjects you care about in your own voice and style. Which leads to another important aspect of blogs - they should be conversational and informal enough to let your voice, style and personality come through.
In other words, the essence of blogging is authenticity. In your blog, you are essentially sharing what is in your head, your feelings and opinions, with others out there. If you feel strongly for or against political candidates, then it makes sense to write about them in your blog. However, if you really don't care, or are a paid campaign worker posing as someone who cares, that is not OK.
If you like or dislike a company and its products and services, sharing your opinion with others is good. But if you really have no opinion and are writing about the company just because you work for the company, its competitors or a marketing agency engaged by either, I would consider that bad blogging behavior.
Beyond a blog being personal, conversational and authentic, there is huge room for diversity. What do you choose to share with people out there? Some - who, I suspect, are mostly relatively young and unattached – may decide to "let it all hang out." Most of us have learned through experience to keep our personal lives and a great deal of our thoughts private, perhaps after seeing the very messy consequences suffered by those whose privacy has been publicly invaded. It is also important to remember that while it may feel good to have gotten angry feelings off your chest in a blog, you want to make sure that you are comfortable with those feelings still being out there the next day, let alone the next week, month and year. What you post will be public for a long time - long after those angry feelings have passed.
Hopefully my blog reflects the fact that I am a technologist and a manager; that I have worked for IBM for a long time, enjoy my job, and have a lot of respect for IBM and its people; that since earlier this year I have been Visiting Professor of Engineering Systems at MIT; and that I very much like talking to, working with and learning from people in business, universities and governments, as well as members of the press and the IT and financial analyst communities. I am Cuban, Jewish, a first generation immigrant to the US, and feel fortunate to be living in a diverse, democratic and free-market society.
I now post entries in my blog once a week, and they are typically inspired by the areas in which I am working, meetings, talks, books, newspaper and magazine stories, and so on. My entries are probably longer than they should be, and they are perhaps too serious, especially since for now I have stopped writing about baseball, films and other non-work subjects that I enjoy a lot.
My blog will hopefully continue to evolve as my life does. Let's see what the future holds.