Why blog? If you don’t, who will?

Glyn Moody, in his post Who are the Hacker Bloggers?, begins:

If you look at the font of all wisdom – no, I don’t mean Wikipedia, but Amazon – you will find stacks of books with titles like The Corporate Blogging Book, Blogging for Business, Blog Marketing and the rest. Whatever the title, the basic message is the same: if you’re in business, you’ve got to be blogging. Because if you aren’t, you’re not “having the conversation” with your customers, which means, in turn, that you’re not getting your message out or valuable comments back.

and goes on to note that few recognized, well-known programmers, blog.

I have done some investigation. My first guess was the most hackers don’t blog because they are too busy writing code.

I also think there may a lag in recognizing the advent of several new technologies in the last few years.

Traditionally, open-source development has had as its core mail lists and also the “source tree” in the form of CVS, and more recently, Subversion. Open-source development at a serious level, then and now, takes place in this context.

At least that was the world as I saw it back in 1999 during the year I ran the Jikes project.

When I started blogging a few months back, I did so in part to explore the utility of the new technologies that have become more widespread since 1999:

  • blogs, for example, WordPress
  • wikis, for example, MoinMoin and Wikipedia
  • content management systems, for example Drupal

Indeed, the 150+ posts you can find here were written mainly to explore the utility of blogs.

But beyond technology, my experience suggests a larger role, one that I find increasingly important, especially in that I am blogger who writes both as an individual and as an IBMer.

In the Jikes days I worked for IBM Research. I then spent a few years at IBM’s Software Group (SWG), and am now part of IBM’s Systems and Technology Group (STG), in the group known as the Linux Technology Center (LTC).

I have followed up on Glyn’s query, and here is the situation as I understand it.

There are a few URL’s that should be included here, and I will dig them up later.

In brief, I estimate that fewer than 300 IBMers blog outside the IBM firewall in a serious fashion, and the number is probably less than 100. Given that IBM has over 300,000 employees, that means that fewer than one in a thousand IBMers blog outside the firewall.

This in spite of the encouragement of IBM’s management that IBMers are free to blog outside the firewall.

One of my LTC colleagues recently put together a list of LTC bloggers, distinguishing “personal” from “professional” blogs. Personal bloggers make minor mention of their life as an IBMer, professional bloggers make it part of their blogging. I count myself as a professional blogger.

Only three LTC members are professional bloggers. I am one of them.

Outside of the LTC I know of only two other IBMers who are known as open-source developers who blog on a regular basis: Ken Coar (occasionally) and Samy Ruby (regularly).

I find this troubling.

My own blogging began in my efforts outside my day-to-day work, as part of my volunteer efforts to encourage those with open-source skills to volunteer to use their skills to make the world a better place, but I think it also important that I write when I can just as an IBMer, to offer my own perspective.

While IBM supports blogging inside the firewall, I think this is not serious blogging.

To blog inside the firewall is to be the minister speaking to the choir, or a choir member praising the minister.

To blog outside the firewall is to engage with the real world, to speak with customers, colleagues, adversaries, and observers …. on their terms, on the common turf.

That’s what counts — the real world, not the inside-the-firewall world.

Because if you won’t speak for your world, to the world, then who will?

Risky, yes. But why shy away from the risk. Better to talk with others than to hide behind the firewall.

I also think that those IBMers in the “older” generation, the ones who have been with IBM for more than five years, have an obligation to reach out, and that the best way to reach fellow IBMers is not within the firewall, but outside of it.

At least that’s my view.

If we don’t blog, who will?

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One Comment

  1. Posted December 5, 2006 at 22:47 | Permalink | Reply

    Well if you don’t we will.

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