Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why Blog?

Mary Abraham of the Above and Beyond KM blog asked me: How do I decide how/what/when to blog?

To answer these questions, I need to go back to when I first started blogging. My former law firm had used Microsoft's Sharepoint as the backbone of their intranet for years. The 2007 upgrade of Sharepoint included these things called blogs and wikis. I was not sure what they were, but they sounded interesting.

I quickly discovered that two people I knew had blogs: Ron Friedmann's Strategic Legal Technology and Joy London's Excited Utterances. I thought they were just websites. (Does it really matter anymore?)

I did a little research and decided to try it out. I would set aside an afternoon and set up a blog. Google claimed their Blogspot platform was easy to set up and free. It took all of ten minutes to set up of which five minutes was figuring out a name and four minutes was spent choosing colors. That left a lot of time that afternoon to think about the implications of what I had done. I also had to figure out what to do with it.

The name of this blog came from my split between knowledge management and real estate. ("KM" for knowledge management and "space" for real estate.) Initially, I thought the blog would be all-encompassing. But I quickly found the knowledge management posts and real estate posts were jarringly different.

Eventually, I spun off the real estate posts into a different blog: Real Estate Space. There I could organize my thoughts on real estate law. At this point I was also beginning to see the marketing value of a blog. I saw my blog posts coming back very high in Google search results. I even did some tests by publishing some of The Firm's alerts in my blog and comparing search results. My blog posts consistently out-performed The Firm's website.

I managed to convince my colleague David Hobbie to try out blogging. He set up Caselines to talk about litigation knowledge management.

Knowledge management had a lot more vibrant discussions happening than real estate, so KM Space was my focal point, with Real Estate Space as more of side project. Real estate law does not change very much. As a lawyer, it did not seem appropriate to write about the real estate market conditions.

For me, blogging was always about personal knowledge management. I put up posts to memorialize interesting things I find. I put up posts to help me focus my thoughts more coherently. Blogging is part of my learning process.

With my new position, I am using a blog as a learning tool. I set up a blog to help me capture the statues, regulations, articles and ideas that I need to learn about compliance. That translates into 143 posts over the past month. This blog is dark now, but I hope to bring it public in the future.

During my time off between positions, I set up a blog to chronicle my paddling adventures: Paddling Space. I wanted to keep track of my experiences and map my routes.

Along with knowledge management, blogs act as a lightweight content management tool. I recently converted into a Wordpress blog. I have found it so much easier to use that using FrontPage and uploading files.

I think the common theme for all these blogs is using the blogging platform to put my thoughts and ideas into a searchable place. I happy that anyone takes the time to read any of my blogs, but I think I am the biggest consumer of my blog material.

To get back to Mary's original questions...

HOW I blog is easy. I post from just about anywhere: the work computer, the home computer, my blackberry or my iPhone. The web-based publishing of my blog platforms make the how part very easy. Although KM Space and Real Estate Space use the Blogspot/Blogger platform, I have decided that I like the Wordpress platform better. Paddling Space uses uses the self-hosted version of Wordpress. (It was very easy to set up and gives me great control over the look and feel.) Compliance Space is currently on, but I will migrate that to a self-hosted site before it goes public.

WHEN I blog is whenever the information hits me. I am a big fan of using a blog to capture my notes during a conference, webinar or presentation. Some presenters seem to be annoyed at the typing. They clearly have not been to a law school classroom lately.

I tend to pre-publish blog post lately to smooth out the flow. Any of the blog post you see with a 9:00 AM publish time (including this one) were pre-scheduled to publish.

HOW OFTEN I blog is related to WHEN. I am not a magazine publisher. I do not keep a schedule. When the information comes to me, I blog. I will often look at the blog and see that I have not posted lately and use that as indicator that I have not been thinking about my job or learning enough lately. Looking back at the number of blog posts over the past year, it looks like I have been learning a lot. KM Space 316 posts, Real Estate Space: 60 posts, and Compliance Space: 143 posts.

WHAT I blog about is helped by the separation of my thoughts into the different blogs. The other blogs are more repositories. This blog is also about having a conversation. Sure it tends to be more about yelling back and forth from mountaintops than a watercooler-like conversation. Twitter is a much more conversational platform.

I am also intrigued by Matt Simpson and Luis Suarez (also of ) over at with their podcast about the conversational side of social media. That truly is a conversation about the conversation.

This blog is about allowing me to communicate with other interested and interesting people. It allows a place to capture my thoughts and share them with you (and myself).


  1. Great post Doug. I agree about the personal information management. Although I started my blog as a marketing tool and a service for my clients, I have found that is a great learning tool for me. I more regularly review case law, read more topical books on family law subjects and get great ideas from other bloggers.

  2. The best way to learn something is to have to teach it to someone else - this is what happens in blogging.

  3. Doug -

    Thanks so much for participating in the meme.

    Your blog has been a wonderful resource for lots of us in knowledge management. Thanks for taking the time to make your information and thinking available to the rest of us. And, thanks for sparking some great conversations online and offline.

    - Mary

  4. It is amazing how the conversational media of blogging turns into a learning tool. I think we spent too much time in school being talked at, instead of having a conversation.

    @Mary - Carrying on the conversation on line through blogs and the social internet is a great follow-up or precursor to face-to-face conversation.Too many meetings have too little substance because the material was not there, or too much substance and there is no way to continue. I have found blogging to fix those problems.

    @Kysa - since blogging is writing and others see it, you want to make sure you get it right (or at least do not get it wrong). That means learning and understanding your trade. Marketing is in effect proving your learning and understanding of your field.

    @Patti - Exactly. If you are going to write blog post, you need to have thought about the subject. If you are writing, you are teaching and learning.

    Blogging has turned me back into an avid learner.


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