I am hastily nearing my third year blogging at improve.dk. Before reinventing my blog, I wrote articles and tutorials at the same address, though in Danish. When I rebooted my blog I completely ditched my old material and started blogging in English. After discussing the concept of blogging a lot recently, I’ve gathered up my thoughts on the subject.
I generally recommend starting a blog to all of my peers. But why do it? There’s no single answer, as it’s very much a subjective matter resulting in different goals.
I recently had a discussion with Daniel from Microsoft Denmark regarding the language of blogs, a discussion that later merged into a discussion on the topic of blogging itself. The discussion originated from a blog post of Daniels (in Danish unfortunately), on why he felt Danish people should blog in Danish. In the following discussion on Twitter, one of Daniels tweets stood out:
Why should I write blogposts if no one wanted to read them? Then I would write a word document for myself!
The above was written as answer to a statement I made on the benefits of blogging:
You measure benefit only in readers! I benefit by improving my writing skill, using the blog as an incentive to learn new stuff.
These quotes really show the core issue that we were debating, and at the same time explain why we will never agree. We have different goals. Neither goal is superior, though they have vastly different foundations.
As a presenter, your job isn’t to learn things.
Your job is to pass on things you’ve already learned.
I absolutely agree with Brent Ozar. As a presenter, your job isn’t to learn things - it’s to pass on the things you’ve already learned. However, this begs the question, am I a presenter? Do I want to be a presenter?
Though I am starting to do more live presentations, I still don’t see myself as a presenter when it comes to my blog.
Even if there were nobody to read my blog, I would benefit tremendously by blogging.
When I blog, I do it as a means of improving my own learning ability. If I reach a level of knowledge where I’m able to share that knowledge and explain it so others can understand it, then I know that I’ve understood the material. By forcing myself to blog about new knowledge I acquire, I also force myself to fully understand it, and hence improve my ability to learn.
While broadening my knowledge is the primary goal of my blog, it is of course not the only one. There’s a reason I haven’t put an IP restriction on the blog, why I have an RSS feed, why I’m running Google Analytics. Of course it does provide encouragement, seeing that people actually read what I write. It does confirm to me that my secondary mission of giving something back to the community is working out. Reader, I thank thee.
The choice of language
My native language is Danish, a language that’s quite foreign to the English speaking population of the internet. Given that there’s only about 6 million Danish speaking people in the world, it’s a basic fact that the potential reach of my blog will be humongous when written in English, compared to Danish.
At iPaper, most of our daily communication is in English, both written and spoken. We’re an international company with partners all around the world, and we have employees at our office that don’t speak Danish at all. Thus, speaking English becomes second nature, and why not continue the trend on my blog? After all, being able to speak and write English is not a transient requirement in the industry.
When I search for the solution to a problem, then I search in English through Google
There are just that many more blogs in English out there, the chances of finding a result quickly diminish if I start searching in Danish. I am but a drop in the ocean, there’s a lot of extremely skilled bloggers out there with non-English native languages. I’d be very saddened if they stopped blogging in English. What great blogs am I missing out on at the moment because they’re not written in English?
While I compare Danish and English in this post, I believe my arguments are universal, whether it be Swedish, Hebrew, Finnish etc.
Blogs need not be unique
One final quote from the discussion with Daniel is perhaps the one I oppose the strongest.
Yes, if you don’t have anything unique to offer you shouldn’t even try!
… And that’s in terms of blogging in English. It will just be pollution in the end!
If your blogging goal is mostly selfish, to improve your own learning ability, then you should not care the least about the uniqueness of your content. Neither should you care about spelling, grammar etc. If you can combine your own goals with producing unique content, then that is of course the ultimate goal, just like improving spelling & grammar should also be a goal itself.
I subscribe to a number of blogs I find interesting, it’s a way for me to keep myself up to date on what’s happening, and to ensure I read the blog entries of the people I admire. For all other content, I find it through Google. As we all know, Google is extremely good at sorting away pollution. Thus, even if your non-unique content could be perceived as pollution, it does not matter! Please do blog, if not for our sakes, then for yours!