Writing Write and meet with courage.

Why You Should Weblog

I used the word “bitsifter” in a recent article. It’s a term the Dad coined in the middle of the 90’s to describe the process by which we were handling the flood of bits that were increasingly heading in our direction. I liked the name so much that I registered the domain name back in 1996 and started what can only be described as a early weblog called the Bitsifter Digest.

I’m in the process of cleaning up the site for posting at a later date, but the specific conte for the Digest isn’t what I want to talk about; what I want to talk about is its existence… as well as the existence of Rands in Repose.

I published the Digest from 1996 until 1999. The end date was roughly the same time that I left Netscape to join a start-up. Go figure.

Rands in Repose began on April 4, 2002, roughly three years after Bitsifter slowly died. Strangely enough, this was just a few short months before I left the aforementioned start-up for my current gig. So, lesson #1 for today is, start-ups suck all creative energy out of your soul and are, therefore, not conducive to weblogs. Better said: Your start-up is your weblog.

Add it up; I’ve got six years experience in the weblog space. I’ve created two, abandoned one, and continue actively maintain the second. I can’t claim either is successful as my definition of success would be getting paid big bucks weblog which just ain’t going to happen. Still, I weblog all the time. When I’m not at the keyboard, I’m sitting in the car bouncing ideas around. When I’m stuck in a meeting, I’m taking the primal commute ideas and crafting them into outlines of articles. I weblog all damned day. You should to.

I can think of three good reasons why you should weblog:

Exercise your ability to express yourself in words.

If you’re reading this, you’ve chosen to use the web as a means of gathering new ideas. It is a non-trivial ability to take that drunken thought you had last Thursday and translate it a compelling argument that folks should talk about. Writing takes time and practice and time and practice.

When you create a space in your life for a weblog, you’re saying, “Writing matters.” You may not give a shit about writing, you may want to tell the world how much you think are physics is really cool, but to do so, you will need to write coherently.

Shrink the world, Meet people you may not hate.

Once you’ve ably conquered the whole writing thing and your ideas are floating around the weblog-o-sphere, people are going to find you. These people are going to want to talk about what you wrote and, oddly enough, their voice is going to sound familiar. This is because they’ve found something familiar in your voice.

Weblogs match people together regardless of geography thus making the world a pleasantly smaller place.

We’re all looking to fill that painfully long silent pause that exists when we’re waiting to interact with someone that we share a common experience with. This is why Tribe.net is destined to be much more successful than Friendster. Tribe.net leads with the question, “Whom do you want to hang with?” rather than the question “Whom do you want to have sex with?” Sure, Tribe.net users are going to end up having a lot of sex, but they’re going to be doing it with people they’re more likely to have something in common with. Finding people to have sex with is easy, finding people you like is hard. A weblog can help.

In the few three months, I’ve been introduced to two sets of folks that there is no way in hell I would’ve interacted with if it wasn’t for Rands in Repose. Alex King of Tasks (and other fine products) fame and I grabbed lunched a few months back and debated the pros and cons of task management. This week at MacWorld, the gentlemen from Panic and I hit a sushi bar where we compared and contrasted development practices of large companies with independent development teams. (Tip: not much difference)

These relationships exist because of the work I’ve put into this weblog… it’s not the layout, it’s the ideas… which gets me to my last and most important point:

Your opinion matters.

No matter how correct/incorrect/poorly informed it is, it’s more interesting than the front page of the news because it has a unqiue voice. Chances are someone on the planet with a web browser will recognize and favor your particular flavor of insight.

Yes, it’s going to take some courage to throw it out there.

Yes, you are going to find people that are going to hate you for these opinions.

Yes, there are bullies out there. There are trolls. There are twits. They are ignoring you now because you haven’t said anything. The moment you do say something relevant you run the risk of incurring their wrath. The louder you get, the higher probability they’ll descend.

Don’t sweat it, the only reason they pick on you is because they have nothing to say for themselves and you do.

14 Responses

  1. Eli Sarver 13 years ago

    I’ve often thought about bringing back some of my web content from an earlier log I ran in or about 1997, which I have complete back-ups of … I think I may do so. Thanks.

  2. Kindred 13 years ago

    Technology-wise, how would you get started? Moveable Type?

  3. There’s a thread about this subject up on http://www.tribe.net . Go check out the Bloggers tribe and look for the ‘Blog help please’ thread. Looks like the guy went with Movabletype.

    High level:

    If you’ve got a technical bent and/or control issues, I’d recommend Movabletype (free).

    If you just wanna get started and don’t want to muck with templates, I’d recommend Typepad ($$$).

  4. Around the web

    Why you should Weblog from Rands in Repose. I completely agree with his thoughts; I would also add blogs have become great sources of answers for random questions. I greatly enjoyed our lunch meeting and continue to enjoy email communication with him.

  5. Or, if you’re *really* technical bent with *huge* control issues, you write scripts yourself using PHP, JSP, ASP, or whatever other flavor of dynamic language you tend to prefer.

    Seriously, though, I liked this article. I haven’t been posting much on my blog of late, but that’s because I’ve been focusing on building a new system for it. I can’t wait until it’s all done so that I can focus on content again.

  6. I know I’ve seriously neglected my weblog as of late, and generally always have. (If I have something interesting to say, I generally put it on my website instead.) This was a very interesting and informative entry, though, and I have to have a lot of respect for people who do manage to take the initiative (or your advice) and create content-rich weblogs such as this one.

  7. You pretty much described why I continue to write almost everyday and did so with great reasoning. Thank you.

    I was thinking I might be the only designer type person out there who walks around with ideas in their head that they would like to write about. My blog is my communication with the world that sits down and gives me time to articulate my thoughts and feelings. In the real world it seems I only have 30 seconds and no audience to do the same thing.

  8. Why Blog?

    Over on NSLog(); there’s a link to this article on Rands In Repose which talks about why you should blog. I read it and found myself thinking

  9. I don’t agree with the “your opinion matters” statement. Part of the general problem with the web (only part of it) is that I have trouble sifting through all the garbage. That everyone should have a right to put up what they want is arguable, but does not translate (regardless of outcome) to the assertion that their opinion actually matters.

  10. I can not argue with you without contradicting myself. Shit.

  11. The question at hand isn’t whether your opinion honestly matters on the internet or not. The real question is “are you willing to put effort and energy into making your opinion heard”? It’s very debatable as to whether anyone’s opinion honestly matters, of course, as some people’s opinions can be rather ignorant or venemous (both rather unpleasant things to read). But if you actually put work into trying to make your opinions heard, you are displaying an initiative for self-improvement (from any comments people may leave regarding your opinions (and by that, I mean intelligent criticism, not “OMG U SUK U FAGET”)) and from that may end up improving yourself as a writer.

    Of course, you could just be displaying an ego (Hey! I have my own webspace and you don’t! Ha ha!), but hey, everyone has one.

  12. rands: You _can_ argue even though you think my opinion matters; you can argue against an opinion while maintaining that the opinion itself matters, even though you think it makes an incorrect assertion. However, not everyone should write just anything and do so, publically, solely because they think their opinion matters. The web is not just a journal. It is a published journal. There is a fine line between self-serving and truly valuable writing.

    It is precisely the situation TheNintenGenius describes that makes me jitter at the sight of “blatanly false” (to the point of repulsive) “opinions.” Although you may be open to constructive criticism, not everyone is, including some of those who may be doing the criticising. And yet the Internet is one of those media where it’s all about the strength of the signal, whether it be actual signal or just noise. And although you may be able to dissect obvious Crapola from the occasional gem, I think that you will find that the vast majority of people cannot (or are too ignorant to do so). [Think mass media. Think CNN (no offense to CNN — on second thought, fuck CNN).]

  13. Your reasons for “why blog” will be printed out on a DYMO label and stuck on my monitor. I’d stick it on my forehead, but then I’d have to print it backwards and mount a mirror on the wall over the keyboard.

    Mind you, I started out almost 10 years ago on AOL myself. We were all “loosers” then, and we’re all still “loosers.” Heh.

    Though I still use some AOL products now, I chose MT to blog partly because it seemed both challenging enough to keep the riff-raff out (Web-TV users: the new AOLers) and aesthetically pleasing for everyone else. I might have paid the nominal fee for “MT setup for the technically inept”, but luckily I have an in-house geek. He found MT so interesting and satisfying to work with that he started his own blog.

    I got to your main page via an archive post I found both helpful and amusing as an AOL/MTer; it was from 6/24/2002. You had just begun using MT for your blog, liked it, and also got in a good smack against those grubby AOL proles.

    Against such courteous and elegant reasoning as yours, sir, “no can defense.”

    Although, when AOL starts their threatened journal/weblogging feature sometime Real Soon, brace yourself for comments on the level of “My Gosh! Heck! Darn! Such indignant my language lack!” (TM Keith Laumer)

  14. Rands, you always write the most compelling essays. Thanks.