I started blogging in March of 2007 and have enjoyed the experience thus far. I have learned a lot about writing, received valuable feedback (both positive and negative), and have built a great network made up of very smart people. Heck, I even had a few people approach me about job opportunities out of the blue. The purpose of this post is to share a story about why I started blogging.
Back in February, I ran into an old friend of mine named Mary. Mary is a retired professor who co-authors a book on database management. She was telling me about her retirement and how she and her husband spend 6 months of the year driving their RV across the states. Every other year she writes a new addition to her book which is used in several graduate programs. I asked her how she was able to keep up with technology when she is on the road. Her answer....blogs. In her earlier editions of the book she spent a lot of time and money interviewing technology folks across the globe. Today, she relies heavily on blogs. As she travels the states, she stays up to date on emerging database technologies and case studies using her broadband mobile satellite dish. The blogs allow her to create a powerful network of top notch professionals whom she reaches out and collaborates with from the comfort of her RV.
Before I had this conversation, I read blogs but not religiously. On the way home I starting thinking about the conversation with Mary and came to the conclusion that there was a lot more value to blogs then I was aware of. Over the next few days I started researching blogs and seeking reasons why people choose to blog. Then I started studying blogs about enterprise architecture and was amazed to see so many relevant conversations happening in cyberspace. So I started subscribing to relevant content using Google Reader. In the past, I would buy and read book after book from Amazon to learn as much as I could about the topics that interested me. The down side of books is that they are based on the past where as blogs are based on the now. On occasion, I was lucky enough to attend some conferences where I would talk to as many people as I could to share lessons learned. The problem with conferences are two-fold. First, there is too much bias because of the amount of people who are associated with vendors and second, a lot of people there don't really have a clue and are just chasing the technology of the month.
After only a few weeks of reading blogs, it became real apparent to me why Mary was able to continue updating her book by the use of blogs. There are a lot of great minds out there sharing their experiences, refining other people's ideas, and giving writers feedback. Then I stumbled across a post where an architect described the reasons why he blogged (I can't remember who the author was). There were many valid reasons but one stood out for me. After a year of blogging the architect was able to look back over his posts and view his journey over time. That was intriguing to me. I was in the middle of launching a project that is transforming my company. We are implementing BPM and SOA. I thought that it would be a great idea to capture my journey. I also felt that I had a lot of good experiences that I could share with those who read technology blogs. So I started writing.
I have been writing for five months now and I have benefited from it in many ways:
- It has taught me how to write better.
- It forces me to research topics thoroughly.
- I have built a network with some top notch people in the industry.
- It allows folks at my work to see what my thoughts are on different topics (I lead the architect group)
- I get feedback (good & bad) on my thoughts and opinions.
- I am able to see other point of views. People tend to challenge ideas more readily in blogs then they would face to face.
- Most importantly, I learn from other people's experiences
I get so much value out of blogging that I kick myself for not knowing about it earlier. I am now on a mission to bring Enterprise 2.0 technologies like blogs and wikis into the workplace so that our shop can share similar experiences within our own walls.
The architects who blog are an interesting group of individuals. They are passionate about their topics and many are extremely opinionated. We tend to argue over definitions, methodologies, and approaches. In reality, there is no right or wrong answers. The "right" answer often depends on a variety of factors including company culture, budgets, leadership, and the talent level of the team. With that said, I still get a lot of value from the back and forth arguing because I get to see things from various perspectives. One of my favorite articles was about how we successfully sold BPM & SOA to the business. Computerworld.com, IBM, and a few other web sites linked to it. On the other hand, James McGovern had this to say:
Sadly, I hate when other enterprise architects give out bad advice such as selling SOA to the CEO by tying it to cost/benefit when in all reality, a good enterprise architect would know that the CEO should stay focused on business strategy while his/her deputies should stay focused on business architecture. At no time should SOA be sold outside of IT. If anyone tells you otherwise, run in the opposite direction.Like I said, what works at one organization, may not work at others. In my case, the CEO has claimed that this is the top priority in the company and has backed it with funding. Sorry for the "bad" advice. I do love James's blog though. He has a built a rare brand that combines technical expertise with an in your face delivery style. I am always happy when my posts make it by without showing up on his site!
I write about the technologies that I deal with at work like BPM, SOA, Virtualization, and Portfolio Management. I often write about controversial topics like open source and offshore development. Both of these topics tend to get people animated and generates a lot of conversation. This is also a big benefit for me. If I am trying to sell the value of open source at work, it is helpful for me to understand opposing views. I sure get those views from the comments on my blogs. The same for offshore development. Whether I like it or not, my company has made a strategic decision to offshore certain projects. It is my job to make it work. I have written various posts about this topic which is a great way to attract opposing opinions. Understanding opposing views helps me understand the type of resistance that I might face at work.
To wrap it up, blogs are changing the way the world gets information. We no longer have to be force fed information from vendors and paid analysts. Now we can collaborate with experts across the globe. Here are some of my favorites:
Andrew McAfee - Associate Professor at Harvard Business School
Michael Hugos - His blog on Computerworld
Nick Malik - Inside Architecture
Eric Roch - SOA Blog
Don Hinchcliffe - Enterprise Architecture
Todd Biske - Outside the Box
James McGovern - Enterprise Architecture: From Incite comes Insight
Dana Gardner - FASTForward Blog
Joe McKendrick - Service-Oriented Architecture
and my all time favorite...
Athena's Blogs about Cats and Dogs - My 8 yr. old daughters blog (story here)