When somebody suggested that I write a post on why I blog, my first question was: "can I be honest?" (I could almost see people cringe when I asked the question.)
But, I believe that it is only honest to share with others not only what the rewards are, but what the risks are too. Because if somebody were to start blogging without an appreciation for both, they might be in for some pretty unfunny surprises.
Because if blogging is all about having an impact—sharing your perspectives, opinions and experiences—then it seems like sometimes those impacts wont always be positive.
Let me say right away that, overall, blogging has been and is a very positive experience from my perspective. But there have also been hard parts. Blogging is done by passionate people (it has been said many times that none of us here at EMC gets paid to blog—it is always something we choose to do, with the superabundance of free time that we have!). And typically blogs are read by passionate people, people that care about the subject matter, and people that have opinions of their own. That don’t always agree with you.
Just remember: it is not personal. (Usually!)
There will also be those people that think: you work for a vendor, so you must be loaded with bias, or no longer capable of making any impartial, reasoned, or valuable insight about the industry. And if you are critical of something, it can easily be dismissed as merely one competitor attacking another.
But two things become pretty clear pretty quickly to a blogger. The first is: whatever you write is forever. The internet doesn’t forget. (And it isn't tremendously forgiving either!) But in a way, this is exactly what drives most of us to blog responsibly and honestly. If I am nothing more than a shill, then not only is what I blog about now not very interesting, it is also pretty damaging to whatever I chose to blog about in the future. Think of this as the blogging equivalent of not posting pictures of yourself, drunk, again, at a college party, on FaceBook. Thats just dumb!
And the second is, it is pretty difficult to have opinions, and not believe that, sometimes, one approach is better than another. The trick, in my mind, is not whether you can avoid criticizing an alternate approach or another vendor's strategy, but whether you can justify your critique with rational analysis and objective evidence. (For some more thoughts on both these subjects, I encourage you to read Lee Dallas' thoughts here.)
And, as a bit of an aside, I think the basic approaches I advocate for here--be objective and thoughtful in your criticism, and mindful that you will be judged by your words and thoughts for a long time to come--are eloquently summed up in the Blog With Integrity philosophy.
But for me, the most difficult part of blogging is disagreeing with those people in a professional, non-confrontational, constructive fashion.
Actually, lets make that the second most difficult part of blogging. The most difficult part is responding to the people within your organization that don’t see the same value in blogging as you do. Len Devanna discussed this a bit on his blog too. In my experience though the difficult part is crossing the divide that develops between those people that have embraced social media and those that have not. Because once you have crossed the gap, the value seems almost self evident. And because it seems self evident, it can be a bit hard to explain. Further, the vocabulary changes, the meaning of things changes, and context changes as your paradigm changes. Reaching the old paradigm from the new paradigm, in a rational manner that is meaningful to both participants can be extraordinarily challenging. It may be slightly over stating things, but the conversation is probably similar to that which took place between people who thought the Earth was round and those that thought the Earth was flat.
And all this can make you ask, at times, if blogging is really the best thing for your career. Or job security!
But on the positive side, blogging has tremendous potential. Potential to reach other people in the industry (even competitors) and engage in a dialogue on how to make things better. How to change fundamental approaches to problems that benefit everybody. Potential to reach senior members of your own organization and open a dialogue with them. Potential to reach an audience far wider than any of us could in the real world. Potential to explore issues and challenges with people that you would otherwise never have a chance to engage with. And most importantly, potential to have a conversation with people (customers) that would otherwise have been a strictly one sided discussion.
All of these benefits greatly outweigh the drawbacks, in my opinion. And I strongly encourage anybody who is interested in blogging to just do it. Go find out what your corporate guidelines are for bloggers, play by the rules, and just do it. But don’t expect every day to be perfect—there will be some challenges, some bumps in the road, and your ego will definitely get bruised.
In the long term however, there are few more rewarding things that you can do. It is certainly one of the most personally satisfying roles I have enjoyed at EMC.