Saturday, January 17, 2009

Learning How to Blog

It's been awhile--over two years--since I blogged. The reasons are simple: I'm busy with work and family, and perhaps I associated blogging too much with professional or scholarly publishing. The second point had two corollaries: my posts were often too big, both in terms of engaging readers and finding time to write; and I felt insecure and shy about saying much. I'm still busy, and I still want my posts to have some value, but I'm hoping I can get back to blogging. Why?
  • I have stuff to say!
  • I'm working from home now for a distributed company (Canonical), so blogging is a way to share (non-proprietary) ideas in the company.
  • Twitter and Facebook have shown me lately the value of making connections with distributed friends and acquaintances.
  • It's a reason, and a way, to work out ideas gradually.
  • I now understand blogging as being (at least potentially) more social--more of a conversation than the higher stakes of a formal presentation or publication.
  • Assuming I don't perform the blogging equivalent of stripping in front of a religious monument, it is conceivably good publicity, if that ever helps. Or, maybe, there's no such thing as bad press? In any case, my boss wants me to take a more public position in the open-source community, in part because I'm driving some of the open-sourcing work for my team. (BTW, I may be going to PyCon! See anybody I know there?)
What do I have to say? Well, off the top of my head:
  • I'm working with the primary author of the O'Reilly REST book, and I have some nascent thoughts about REST and what I'm learning from him that I'd like to work out.
  • I presented a speech at a company conference this past October about my take on why and for whom the Zope interface and component libraries might matter. It would be nice to make that a bit more general and share it.
  • As I said, I'm working from home now, and I really enjoy it. One reason I enjoy it is the processes that my company, and my project, have for helping a distributed team work together. I'd like to share them, because I think the whole experience is great.
  • I've done some more open-source work lately, ranging from adding the capability for buildbot to launch AWS-EC2-based build slaves on demand, through adding support for the bzr revision control system to buildbot, through adding cookie helpers to testbrowser, to packaging and releasing some software developed by other folks in my company. I'd like to talk about them a bit.
So, there's plenty of reasons to blog. How can I make my blogging experience better? What can I learn from the last time I tried this?
  • As I said before, treat this as a conversation. I usually don't have time to prepare something that approaches being authoritative, so admit it, move on, and be ready to listen.
  • That said, remember ye olde paper-writing days from school: outlines RULE. Write an outline, at least an informal one, first.
  • If the outline starts to look big, do it in broad-brush and DIVIDE IT UP across several posts! The outline will help keep the posts make sense together, and focusing on one or two bullet points per post will keep the blog entries shorter and less imposing for readers, and will be a smaller, easier-to-schedule block of time for me to write.
  • Let my light(ness) shine! I have occasionally been reasonably amusing in my life, and, as a reader, I find that posts with a bit of lightness and levity are easier for me to read. Being lighthearted probably puts me in a better frame of mind when I write, too. "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down"?
So, that's the current theory, anyway, for teaching myself how to blog. Let's see how it goes.

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