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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Blog Thoughts

I ran across this post from Tom Foremski today, and part of it really jumped out at me:
There is something in the process of writing (blogging) that has opened up an entirely new experience of myself....And I often have an experience of being able to "think" through my fingers. For example, I will start typing an analysis of a tech industry news event, and it is the act of writing that allows me to "think it through."
That mirrors my own experience to some extent. I find that writing my thoughts down forces me to organize them, thereby sharpening and clarifying them more than they would have been otherwise. That's a benefit that I wish had been emphasized more in my high school English classes. Three-point essays have their place, but they're not something the average person will use on a day-to-day basis. Thought-focusing composition for personal use and benefit, though, is a skill that nearly everyone could use regularly.

Such writing can also serve as a wonderful filter. You know that feeling you get when you say something, and immediately think how it didn't sound stupid until you said it out loud? Well, writing to an imagined audience (such as blog readers) can give you a chance to say something "out loud" before anyone can hear it. There have been numerous occasions on which I've rewritten, rethought, or entirely scrapped a blog entry after getting a good look at the thoughts out in the open, so to speak.

What Foremski seems to have omitted, though, is that this isn't anything new. These benefits have been well-known to essayists for centuries, and probably account for the enduring popularity of the format. Blogging has just become the newest embodiment of the form. Paul Graham explores those concepts further in his article The Age of the Essay.

Another consideration with blogs is that they are public and enduring. Google knows all and remembers all. That means that you should expect anything you post, from articles to comments, to be permanent and accessible fixtures in the public realm. My rule of thumb is that I try to avoid posting anything that I wouldn't want to be interviewed about on the evening news.

And, as Computer World points out, it's entirely likely that companies (especially tech companies) will search for online activity as a source of insight into a prospective employee. The article focuses on the negative, but hopefully witty or insightful items could have positive influences as well. I doubt that finding statements indicating I hate Visual Basic or that I like Smalltalk would disqualify me from any jobs I'd particularly enjoy, but beyond merely being unembarrassing, I hope that the online impression I make is a genuinely favorable one.


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