Why I blog

I’ve been blogging for several years now, and a question that continually pops up is why do I do it?

My answer has remained consistent over time.

I blog primarily for myself. I use writing as a vehicle for my thinking. By presenting my thoughts to the world, I need to understand them, and articulate them effectively for others to understand. And if other people learn something from my insights and experiences, then I’m delighted.

The tag line of my blog is provoking deeper thinking. I want us to escape the echo chamber, to use our own brains and come to our own conclusions. To go beyond the obvious and explore the implications. We all have different perspectives, and we operate under different circumstances, so there’s no “one answer” anyway.

Comments are the lifeblood of blogging. I welcome comments from my peers. We don’t even have to agree – in fact the discussion is often richer if we don’t – so long as the interaction is empathetic and mutually respectful. So yes, I invite everyone to add their voice to the conversation.

13 thoughts on “Why I blog

  1. Difficult to resist responding to a post like this!

    Blogging is almost like a guilty secret – people who blog are always trying to justify it both to themselves, and to the people who read their blogs, but you don’t need to apologise to people who are already reading!

    The simple strength of a blog is this: it’s a great way to learn. It’s great for exploring, testing and consolidating your own thoughts while simultaneously inviting feedback every step of the way. A good blog post, on the right topic becomes a good learning resource for the whole world. No need to apologise for providing that!

  2. I think any writer and many teachers would agree: you don’t truly know what you think and why until you try to explain it in a reader-based way. I know I certainly don’t, and you’ve captured the idea I was aiming for in my “about the author” statement very clearly.

    It’s a major reason why I blog, and why I ask my students to blog. (I also hope to do a little “curation”, a la Howard Rheingold’s “NetSmart” curation idea.)

    It seems like comments are dropping these days. Is it just all the blockers we have to put up to prevent spam bots? A lack of engagement? What’s your take?

  3. Ryan,

    Your comment reminded me of something that Harold Jache wrote about writing primarily for himself and if others get value out of it that’s good too. I held off blogging for years thinking that I needed to have something to say for others, and also concerned about how others would respond to what I had written. Now that I’ve started blogging I agree with you that I am the main beneficiary. It forces me to slow down and reflect on my experiences and what I’m learning. It also helps me to make sense of the flow of content coming my way, to step out of the river and sit quietly in the banks for a little while and figure out how I can use or build upon what has come to me through others. It has also been a great way to connect with fellow seekers and sense- makers – to build my network. And on top of this I am mindful that blogging is not making private journal entries a there is a wider audience. This lifts the standard of my thinking and writing, further increasing the value of the activity to me.

    As for why people don’t comment more in blogs, perhaps it’s about this competing for time with reading and writing own material. Probably same fears and concerns that block people from blogging themselves.

    Keep it up!


  4. Yours was one of the first blogs that I started to read, which happened to coincide with my introduction to twitter. Both of these things opened my eyes to a much larger world of learning, development and ideas (some similar and many different) from people that I have since formed great connections with.
    Thanks for blogging Ryan, myself and many others are better off for it :-)

  5. Irene, Michelle and Matt, thanks so much for your kind comments.

    Irene, please feel free to pilfer what you like for your “About the author” statement :0) Michelle, I’m almost certain Harold stole it from me ;0)

    Regarding comments, I think spam blockers have something to do with it, as does time pressure. I’ve also noticed more people commenting via other channels (eg Twitter, Google+) rather than at the OP.

    Having said that, another trend I’ve noticed is the increasing thoughtfulness of comments. Perhaps more people are choosing not to comment unless they have something constructive to add. Which I don’t mind at all – I’ll take quality over quantity any day!

  6. Hey Ryan, blogging is such an interesting thing – I certainly agree with the sentiment of a personal blog as a primarily a site for your own personal learning, exploration & experimentation of ideas and it’s also the reason I started one too. I think though there is an odd, undeniable (and perhaps sometimes unspoken?) tension between this idea of blogging for yourself vs for others – just in the sense that it’s nice to get some sort of feedback.
    I think though the minute you start blogging *only* or even primarily for others / to get readers is when you start to reduce the personal learning benefit in favour of “personal branding” or promotion – this is when it starts to become more of a job than something you do because you enjoy it. This isn’t necessarily wrong or bad, it’s just about your objectives for writing. And these objectives will be different for different people.
    I read a post on LinkedIn tonight on blogging that was really about professional / company blogging rather than personal blogging which stated: “It’s about them, not about you (sorry).” Them being your readers. Whilst this made me cringe slightly when thinking about it in relation to personal blogging, in the context the writer was discussing blogging (professional / company blogs) I guess it made sense. The thing I don’t love about it is, it turns blogging into a marketing activity, and reduces blog writing to a rather soul-less, superficial, formulaic exercise.

    What I love about personal blogs – and reading and discovering personal blogs – is the personal voice, the character, narrative and soul of a person’s unique writing style,the depth of message – this is the sort of thing that can’t be reduced to a formulaic posting of 300-500 words (as the article I was reading suggests). But I guess that also depends on your objective as a reader… ; )

    I also love commenting – and find it way easier to comment than write my own posts – I think this might have something to do with commenting as being more in the flow of a conversation vs a post having a spotlight being shone directly on me. I tend to agree with Michelle that perhaps less commenting (if this is the case) is due to our divided attention, distracted lives. I am someone who finds it difficult to really digest something unless I write notes, so commenting sometimes operates as a form of social note-taking / sensemaking for me. Anyway, I’ll get off the soapbox now ; )

  7. While I definitely agree with Ryan, Tesselo, and Michelle about blogging as a “writing to learn” exercise, and am definitely mindful of the trap of falling into “all-branding, all the time” (ugh) I do think it’s worth remembering that we all probably do have a fair number of readers who truly are getting something out of our personal musings.

    We aren’t just writing for ourselves, even if our “hits” numbers are low.

    I think of the number of times that I have googled a question and found the answer on a personal blog, usually with references and links attached. Or when I’ve gotten a sense of not being alone in my confusion or frustration. Or just felt like there is someone else like me out there.

    I rarely stop and leave a comment, but I am grateful. Probably we all have readers that we know nothing about, and those “unknown others” are part of the reason I blog.

  8. Thanks Tanya.

    Company blogging is content marketing. Companies must market themselves, and I would say that blogging is a key component of the overall marketing strategy, but it is indeed about “them”. I would argue too that effective content marketing is not soul-less, superficial, nor formulaic – but of course so much of it out there is. The latter is trite, condescending and frankly insulting. It reminds me of that Hugh McLeod cartoon “If you talked to people”: http://shar.es/NkmP0

    I love how you contrast this to personal blogs. The way I write my blog is very different to how I would write a company blog (if I were to). Yes, a personal blog is a form of personal branding – regardless of your objectives – but I agree that if you shift your focus from learning to self-promotion, it becomes a job, a chore and a weight on your shoulders.

    Looking through the lens of learning, then, comments become valuable feedback. Some of my blogs have had comment threads longer than the blog post itself! This, I found, has resulted in a rich discussion through which all parties (blogger, commenters, readers) learn from one another.

    Cheers :0)

  9. Ryan, interesting what you say about company blogging. And you’re right for the most part: regardless of how writers may attempt to write for their audience, to curate a message or that is seen as helpful and of value – ultimately the ulterior motive is marketing – and this IS about THEM. I still remember a few occasions where I’ve clicked on a link to what, on the face of it, sounded like a post on an interesting topic, only to get something of questionable value, with a marketing spiel tacked onto the end. It makes you kind of feel cheated. And teaches you to avoid links from that organisation.
    Of course, not all company / professional blogging is like this – some of it is genuinely useful. But it can be a bit hit and miss. Like that Hugh McLeod comic you linked out to. (Love!)

    The other interesting thing I guess is contractors and independent consultants who blog – and I guess they’re really treading that fine line between personal and professional blogging. Blogging really is undeniably intertwined with their personal / professional brand and credibility – more so than the rest of us I think even if just by virtue of the fact that their blog is often part of their professional website.

  10. I have always tended to write my thinking out, it helps me to understand things and makes the process of working through issues, multiple positions and points of views clearer for me. so blogging is for the most part an extension of a process which I did anyway even before there were blogs. So I write about stuff that interests me, confuses me, stuff that I want to think about, and if people read it and interact with me around the content that is a bonus. I also find Tanya’s comments interesting particularly the most recent one where she says
    ‘The other interesting thing I guess is contractors and independent consultants who blog – and I guess they’re really treading that fine line between personal and professional blogging. Blogging really is undeniably intertwined with their personal / professional brand and credibility’

    My blog and my writings are quite tightly intertwined with my public profile, which does mean that there some things or opinions that I don’t talk about simply because of the effect which it might have on my public persona. This doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen. Now some people might suggest that censoring myself in such a way is somewhat unauthentic, but I look at as just being similar to not talking about certain subjects with my grandmother. It makes life easier and less messy for everyone involved.

  11. Cheers Paul. Some people think things through by talking about them aloud; others like you and I prefer to write them out. Vive la difference!

    Tanya’s comments are always interesting and insightful, and that one was no exception. I don’t see self-censorship as unauthentic, although I agree with your suggestion that some would. You would have to be a fool to act without discretion – but that does not prohibit us from honest, authentic blogging.

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