Tag: blogging

Why I blog

I’ve always enjoyed words, reading and writing.

At school English was my favourite subject, with Physics a close second (if there had been a computing O Grade I would probably have taken that instead). My parents are both teachers and much of my inquisitive nature was fuelled by books; I still have, and treasure, a set of Readers Digest encyclopedias gifted to me by my late grandparents.

My Dad was always interested in computers, so from the days of having a BBC Micro, and then an Apple Macintosh Plus in the house it’s no surprise that I got interested in those too.

Put computers and words together and writing seems to be the obvious next step. From the initial wonder at watch words form on a screen, to a job as a technical writer, it’s far to say that technology and writing have always been a big part of my life.

My first blog post was hand crafted and uploaded to my own website, which had been in existence for a couple of years, on the 2nd of June, 1999. It was an odd moment, realising that something I’d created could be seen on the internet.

Fast forward a year or so to July 2000 and a new service called Blogger was launched and made that process all the simpler! From there it’s safe to say that blogging, as the first stage of social media, become very popular. Since then it’s been through a few dips but it’s definitely back on the map now.

Being a blogger in Scotland was a little bit odd back then, there were so few of us but that did mean that, over time as we all found one another online, it did setup some friendships that became much more than just ‘people I know who blog’.

For my part, I guess I should own up to having run a website called Scottish Blogs.

The year was 2002, and webrings were ‘the thing’. If you weren’t part of a webring, or five, you weren’t one of the cool kids.

Blogging Brits was one of the first I joined and soon I realised that Scotland needed one too and so in late November 2002 the Scottish Blogs webring was born.

By December 2003 there were 100 other members and a year later I created a directory website and moved away from the (by then quickly losing popularity) webrings. It was running that website, and organising the first few blogmeets that allowed me to meet some wonderful people, going on to attending (and doing a reading at) one of their weddings and visiting them in Hungary.

Since then I’ve had three separate blogs, now merged into this single website, written more words than I care to remember, been mentioned in newspapers, been on the radio, and through it all been lucky enough to get to know and meet some amazingly generous, lovely, smart and funny people from all over the UK, many of whom I’ve known for years and, over time, have managed to meet.

I still blog today for the same reasons that I started writing:

  1. I blog for me, I know others may read what I publish and I welcome the conversations it can spark, but this is my space.
  2. I write to process the thoughts in my head, that is a constant theme throughout the last 14 years.
  3. Because I enjoy it.

I write all this as, it seems, blogging is back on the rise. What goes around comes around I guess?

Censored

Have you noticed anything different here? Maybe not, but those of you who have been reading for a while (thank you!) may have noticed that I’ve been managing to post here a couple of times a week recently.

Don’t worry if you didn’t notice, there is no test at the end.

I’ve been pushing myself to write to try and get my blogging mojo back, partly because I enjoy the process and the fact that it helps me keep in touch with what’s going on in our wider profession, and partly because there is a lot going on and I like to capture some of it.

But I can’t capture it all.

Looking back at this blog, there are some posts which hint at some things which ended up coming to pass. The signs are subtle and obviously I’m more tuned in to them than anyone else as I wrote it but they are there. It’s not that I want to be cryptic, more that I know that a sensible level of awareness and self-censorship are one of the most important skills to learn as a blogger. Whilst the opinions stated here are mine, and mine alone, I simply can’t post things which might compromise the company I work for in any way shape or form.

And so, as I started to pull together some notes with a view to publishing them on this blog I realised I wouldn’t be able to, not at the moment.

Suffice to say that the next few months could see some interesting challenges and changes, and as soon as I can I’ll be discussing them here (and my Twitter feed is likely to be reduced to a serious of exasperated noises). I am feeling excited, nervous and ready for what lies ahead and hopefully as we learn lessons here, I can share some of them with you.

That said, if there is anything you’d like me to tackle, any questions to ask, please get in touch. Always happy to help.

 

On not blogging

A product release is imminent.

A trip to visit two customers in the US of A.

Ongoing complications with the new ISTC website (soon, soon!).

Planning for 2012, including a major restructure of our content.

Actual writing some documentation (a rare occurrence!).

Plus all the usual things that life is wont to throw at us.

Maybe look for me on Twitter instead?

Blog on TwitbookPlus

Apparently, according to something I read online over the weekend (so it must be true, right?) blogging is fast evolving into a niche activity thanks to the uptake of such fancy-schmancy websites like Facebook, Twitter and maybe even the new Google+.

Given that when blogging started it was a fairly niche activity, and given that I’ve been blogging since about then, it feels comforting to know that my hobby is returning to its roots.

Of course, in the intervening 12 or so years a lot has changed and blogging won’t ever really be the same maybe this is what it needs. I wonder if this something that other such social media type websites might follow in the coming years. For a long time, blogging was the only quick and easy way to self-publish. These days we are spoilt for choice and, as most of us are inherently lazy, the quicker (and therefore shorter) the better.

What does that mean for me?

I’m not really sure to be honest. Whilst this may sound harsh, I don’t get much value from this blog anymore so it’s dropping down my priority list. Do I get value from the other websites I use, you ask? Hmmm let me think.

Yes, I do get value from Twitter and Facebook.

Please note: your idea of value may vary.

Broadly speaking Twitter lets me keep in touch with acquaintances, Facebook lets me keep in touch with friends and family (and acquaintances), my onemanwrites blog helps me focus my professional thoughts, and everything else that passes my online filter is pushed to either Pinboard or Tumblr. That leaves this blog in a virtual no-mans land and, as has been evidenced over the past couple of years, has turned into a public diary which as much for my own need as anything. I’m not even going to mention that other writing place I have (except I just did).

As for Google+, well it’s still too new and for the moment the only thing it might do is kill my personal Twitter account. Time will tell.

And all of that is only considering, largely, word based content. I’ve still to shift from using Flickr as my main photo ‘presence’, but maybe that too will change? Who knows.

I’m not going to stop blogging, that much I do know, just as I won’t stop posting photos, bookmarking links, and generally sharing the stuff I stumble upon online. This blog, as with all my other online accounts, are but a representation of the parts of me and my personality I am happy sharing with the world. From that point of view, blogging has, most definitely, been on value and so, for now, I’ll keep on blogging as and when inspiration strikes.

After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Technology vs Emotion

Random thought: Has the rise of (talk of) emotional content (affective assistance) been driven by the concentration, over the last few years, on technological solutions?

Single sourcing, XML, DITA, DocBook, and all the rest have (rightly) taken our profession forward, so I guess it’s natural that the general trends, as well as refocussing on the content itself, are looking for how to better engage with a modern audience.

The evidence suggests that that modern audience is Facebooking, Twittering, and blogging, and wants content in easily digestable chunks.

That plays nicely into the hands of single sourcing (chunks) and the idea of emotional content through connecting to the user, using friendly language to make the content easily digestable.

So, if you’ve already got your technology sorted out, why aren’t you looking at how your content is presented?

Alright me Babber

I was in Brizzle on Friday, I mean Bristol. It was a bit damp, but that didn’t matter as I was there for the wedding of a wonderful woman called Ann and a rather charming man called Karl.

I had some time to myself during the day, and wandered round the harbour area, avoiding the drizzle as best I could. It’s a nice place, from what I saw of it, and the people are really friendly. I’m sure it’s even nicer in the sunshine!

The wedding itself was one of the better weddings I’ve attended, not least for the company, many of whom were bloggers, more of whom were Twitterers (Twittees?), and all of whom were friendly, funny and most certainly game for a laugh. The bride looked stunning, the groom dashing, and I even got to wear a kilt for the evening which is always good.

Several highlights spring to mind, not least watching the bride pogo to Smells Like Teen Spirit. Meeting several people I’ve known online (some of which for almost ten years) for the first time is always fun, although we never did figure out quite who all the other people on Twitter were (hashtag for the evening was #pixnups, yes, it was a geek wedding!). There was beer, cameras, knitting, good chat, shoe porn, laughter, toy cars, and even a spot of dancing. Fun fun fun!

Mind you the getting up at 5.45 the next morning for the flight back, not so much fun!

Nor was locking myself out of my flat when I left on Friday morning, which meant I had to go pick up the spare set from the letting agency rather than just crawl into bed, whimpering.

The rest of the weekend was pretty quiet, but all added up to being a very good weekend indeed.

Come back soon for the next thrilling installment when I’ll be blogging about buying and constructing bookcases from IKEA, and plans for my next tattoo. The fun never ends!

How rude

There is one thing I haven’t done here for quite a while. It’s rather remiss of me so please accept my apologies.

Quite simply, I wanted to say thank you. To you. Yes YOU.

Thank you for visiting this blog, and more importantly, thank you for coming back and visiting again. A lot of the ideas I talk about here are made better by your comments, and I continue to find blogging to be a useful way to work through some of the thoughts and random ponderings that float around in my head.

I tend, like many, to do most of my blog reading through RSS and I know that making the effort to comment on a blog is something that not everyone will do, and which some blogs can struggle with. It continues to amaze and delight me that anyone reads this blog, let alone takes the time to share their own hard-earned thoughts.

So, sincerely, thank you.

10 years

I’ve had a personal website for over 11 years, the earliest posts from that are in the archives here in a category titled B.B. (Before Blog). Each page was handcrafted and typically it would take twice as long to get the post online as it took the write it in the first place.

Then, along came Blogger. A way to publish at the push of a button and, on this day 10 years ago, I did just that.

Since then a lot has changed. Which seems very obvious to say but it’s only when you sit back and think on the events of the past 10 years that I realise how different I am to the person that wrote those first blog posts.

I certainly didn’t think I’d still be writing here and whilst the quality and frequency remains very boom and bust, I don’t see me stopping. Writing, for me, is a very cathartic experience and has gotten me (and is getting me) through some very difficult times in my life; the death of my Gran, and of my mother-in-law, the stress of house moves, new jobs, and the joy of marriages and the times spent with my dearest friends. It’s also getting me through the end of my (almost) 13 year marriage but those scribbles will remain private.

I blog about my professional life and I use a blog as somewhere to store my random faffings with words and sentences.

I’ve meet many wonderful, smart, intelligent and funny people through blogging, and consider them friends. There are a few I’ve still to meet, and with the advent of Twitter I’m finding more and more people with similar views, similar outlooks and that wonderful mix of interests that so many bloggers share with many of us having similar tastes in art, music, design, religion, food, and politics. Thankfully we retain enough differences for a little friction as well.

To everyone who has visited here over the years, thank you. Thank you for your comments, for your kind thoughts and emails, for your advice and general willingness to share.

And thank you to you, my silly little blog. I probably owe you more than I realise.

There are many things about me I don’t share on this blog, many moments I keep for myself, or to protect the privacy of others (and, let’s be frank, to save my Mother any blushes), but there remains a lot of who I am wrapped up in 4, 793 posts that this blog contains. You may not always see the best of me, but that’s not the point.

A long time ago I received an email from a complete stranger. They had read something on my blog, something I’d written as a way for me to understand a not so pleasant period of my life, and they thanked me for writing it, for helping them realise they weren’t the only person in the world to go through what they were going through.

To those people who don’t understand blogging, don’t understand why someone would do it, why someone would share themselves with complete strangers I refer you to that email, to that one point of contact with a stranger which helped them. Maybe it didn’t make a huge difference, but life is so much about those moments of stillness, moments of beauty, the things that turn black to grey.

So I’ll continue to blog, continue to write about things that interest me, things that capture my attention, things which I want to capture and take things from there. If I’ve learned anything at all in the past 10 years (and some would say that’s doubtful), it’s that it no-one has all the answers and sometimes there aren’t any answers at all. Only life.

And as cheesy as it is, I’m going to end with a quote from my favourite movie as, when it boils down to it there really is only one choice to make.

Get busy living, or get busy dying.

I’m choosing the former.

One more blog

This blogging thing seems to be catching on, so much so that my company will soon have a blog looking at industry specific issues and thoughts.

And yes, I’m one of the bloggers. I’ll link to it once it’s up and running (we are testing it at the moment) and provide a bit more information as well.

Feels a bit like I’m coming out of the blogging closet!

Role of Social Media


A few months ago I was approached to write a piece that would be featured in a special supplement for the ISTC Communicator magazine. The supplement, sponsored by Adobe, was to be titled “The role of social media in technical communication” and after my presentation on blogging at the Technical Communications conference last year, I was asked to expand on my thoughts about blogging.

There are three other articles in the supplement, all of which look at different ways we can leverage the advantages of social media within the realm of technical communications.

Noz Urbina of Mekon opens with his vision of how we can use social media to help users get the most out of products and services, David Farbey suggests some of the ways social media can help solve some of the problems we all face as technical communicators, and RJ Jaquez of Adobe looks at how using social media can (and should) change the role of the technical communicator within a company by offering a direct way to connect to customers.

It’s a fascinating read and you can download the entire supplement here.