Second thoughts


It’s been two weeks since I last wrote an entry here. I’ve been pondering what it is that makes people write blogs. As I wrote in my first post, I am not naturally someone who feels an urge to communicate unless I am having a dialog with someone (answering a question, etc.). I started a blog to experiment with the medium and to try to understand it. So far it has confirmed my initial thinking.


I can understand quite well that the blog I am writing is interesting to many people – more because of where I work than the actual content I suspect. But what makes the blog-writer continue on? Fans? Encouragement from readers? Burning need to self-publish? An altruistic desire to inform others? I expected when I started that I would feel some excitement that others were reading what I wrote, and of course I did. But that also makes me feel “cheap” in some way – I am not sure why I ascribe a value judgment like that but maybe it is because I think there’s an unavoidable element of using the Microsoft cachet to pick up readers I wouldn’t otherwise have – an undeserved notoriety if you will. It’s not a feeling I am comfortable with.


Does anyone else who blogs feel this way about blogging? Or for those of you who have to go on your own strength because you don’t have the benefit of a famous company people are curious about to artificially boost interest in your blog, is it the most natural thing to muse publicly about this and that, even if (usually) nearly no one is listening? If so, why?


Personally I’d be much happier continuing to blog if it was done as a dialog or Q&A like with e-mail, so I could at least believe I was being helpful. If you want me to keep going, please leave some comments with questions or topics you are interested in.


Comments (26)

  1. Anonymous says:

    hehe "what it is that makes people write blogs"

    That may be a FAQ in blog. Thousands of peoply may have thousands of ideas. Even in China, it turns to a hotspot now.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’d missed your blog these past weeks 🙂

    My personal perspective is to treat weblogs as an extension of journals. There are other reasons and roles for blogs, but they sound too much like work.

    I’ve had to deal with this question several times in my life: why keep a journal? After several attempts (all but the last abortive) I have found the biggest reason to do so is this: I have a poor memory, and I change dramatically with time. A journal is my crutch against an otherwise perpetually foggy universe. The journal comes in handy when I think about a decision I made (often at work, sometimes not) and ask myself, "What was I thinking?" Hindsight is 20-20, and a journal keeps me from forgetting what it was like ‘in the heat of the moment’.

    Write for yourself. If you are maintaining your weblog for others you will have trouble keeping it up. Don’t force yourself to write everyday or anything. Some people write more frequently than others. That is ok. By definition you will write about what is important enough to you to be worth remembering.

    I have heard dissenting opinions on every one of these. Perhaps one needs to give up a few times before finding one’s style. Once you do it’s like a floodgate opens up within you. Referring to your journal becomes second

    nature.

    The degree of privacy one gives to one’s journal is, of course, a personal matter.

    P.S. If you need any encouragement you can check that you have at least one reader anytime you like:

    http://www.cs.utexas.edu/~akkartik/agg.html

    This home-brewn web-based aggregator is my primary source of reading material.

    Then again, there are webserver logs.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Kartik. I am not worried about having interested readers though. But I think you hit it on the head that you need to blog for yourself. The problem I have is that I don’t really need to blog. I don’t keep a journal either – it just isn’t my style, although finding a scrap of thought in OneNote a few months later can be enlightening, I agree. So I am curious why others feel a need to blog. To listen to bloggers, it is "obvious", yet I don’t see it (or "feel" it, I suppose).

  4. Anonymous says:

    Heya, Chris. Congrats on shipping.

    IMO, good blog entries happen when you have a burning need to say something. You can feel it queuing up in your gut, ‘That is so wrong!’ or ‘This is really interesting…’ Then you find yourself working out the exact combination of words in your head in between appointments and work. Finally, late at night, you post it, and there’s an immediate sense of relief and rightness-with-the-world.

    You write because you feel like you have to, to stay sane. To take a tongue-in-cheek view, if you’re emotionally balanced, then no burning need, and no blog 🙂

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hi, Chris… You might want to check out my reply to your post on http://wesnerm.blogs.com.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Chris,

    Somewhat like yours, my blog is more professional commentary than personal diary. I have two main topics: SQL Server and Tips for the Self-Employed. Occasionally I will link to something I have read and add some commentary, but more often, my posts are like miniature articles. I blog because I was encouraged by friends that I had some skills and experiences that might be helpful to others.

    I am in that position because I have been self-employed for 12 years. You are in a similar position because you work for the big M. The way you do it, it’s not a cheap ploy to cash in on the name. Your style is more along the lines of just finding yourself in an interesting position where you have access to information and experiences that others want to read about. Some other people might try to "cash in" on the name, but your awareness of that trap will help you to avoid it.

    I like your writing style. It’s easy to read, and professional. I’m interested in hearing stories about how you guys think about projects, how you make decisions on features, what does "A Day in the Life…" look like, some "you wouldn’t believe what just happened" stories, and maybe even a few OneNote tips & tricks or success stories. We don’t need another Geek Aggregator (Scoble does that just fine) but we could sure use some more "insider stories".

    I hope you feel compelled to share with us some more, but if not, thanks for good reading you have already given us.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Chris…writing about coding is every bit as useful as coding itself. I have no doubt that you are providing a valuable service to the developer community.

    As far as why people blog, I don’t know. It might be a matter of "for those who understand, no explanation is needed; for those who do not, no explanation will suffice".

  8. Anonymous says:

    Chris, you wrote, "I can understand quite well that the blog I am writing is interesting to many people – more because of where I work than the actual content I suspect."

    The fact that you work at Microsoft is what got people here in the first place. The content, however, is what keeps them coming back.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Chris,

    Just wanted to drop you a note. I feel the same way about blogging (incidently the same about writing journals, columns, articles, etc.). I tried it, got two or three posts on and then got what I had to say at that moment out of my system and lost interest. So, I completely understand where you’re coming from. Some people are just born to do these kinds of things for whatever reason.

    I will tell you though, that although I don’t publish anymore I still read quite a few blogs (Wired, Scoble, Rory, Eric Gunnerson, Phillip Greenspun, etc.) and I enjoy your content greatly. Your writing is very informative, sounds very casual and I think you do it well. I hope that you keep up the posting.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I blog because I want to share anything that I find out during my Internet surfing, or odd behaviors while coding. If I knew that no one was reading me, I might stop, but thankfully I have referral logs which eliminate that doubt.

    When I first started, my blog was essientally my journal. In the past year, though, I stopped writing about my personal experiences and concentrated on mostly technical and programming topics. I definitely like blogging a lot more know, because I’m always writing about things that I enjoy, instead of what happened to me today (which, imo, is very boring, and I don’t know why anyone would want to read about it).

  11. Anonymous says:

    I blog because I’m an extreme-extrovert and need to say my thoughts…and have someone hear them. My friends, even the wonderfully nerdy ones who love to talk business/ideas/thoughts for hours, are too busy to read a ton of e-mails from me and then feel like they have to respond. This lets me post those things at my leisure and them read them at theirs. The added community that I’ve found is an added benefit.

    Oh, I also like to search for things online at Google (that I’ve blogged about) and find those resources quickly…

    -Bec

  12. Anonymous says:

    Chris,

    I enjoy reading your content. I don’t recall if I knew you worked at MS prior to checking out your blog or not. Either way, like Rick said above, working at MS may bring the people here, but they will stay for the content.

    I find that a lot of what you have written I relate to well. Informative and helps to keep me on track… I can sometimes fall into the ‘ship it when it’s right’ category! Your thoughts on the ‘building the mansion’ really made a lot of sense to me.

    I do hope you keep going..

  13. Anonymous says:

    I can’t really explain why I blog except that I recognize that sharing knowledge and ideas is one of the most powerful forces in the human race. In fact, it may be our ability to communicate and collaborate that has lifted us to our dominant position on the planet. A lot of brains all thinking about the same idea can scaffold some fantastic things.

    Does that mean my blog is necessarily the savior of the race? <g> Of course not; but sometimes I have ideas or thoughts that I want to share, I hear things that interest me and I want to comment on and maybe once in a great while one of my blogs inspires a new thought in somebody that makes the world a tiny bit better.

    That and chicks dig it. <wink>

    -Ben-

    http://schorrtech.blogspot.com

  14. Anonymous says:

    Re the MS angle on your blogging and it’s popularity: I have been quite interested in what I consider to be a real change in perception about MS as a company and as a group of employees because of blogging. When I first found Mary Jo Foley’s list of MS bloggers, I thought "wow, can they really do that?" It was like a look inside the Forbidden City. Like a move to open source, a move to more real interaction between software builders and software users is necessary and probably overdue, although really it’s just part of the natural progression we are making as computer users. First we had to get connected up, and now we have to connect! I want to read a Chris Pratley blog not only because he has a cool job, but because it is an important way for me to better understand how and why One Note works. I also appreciate an opportunity to comment on, and in some small way influence the way that software builders think of what excites me, and what frustrates me about what it is they do.

  15. Anonymous says:

    G’day Chris – I don’t use OneNote. I enjoy your blog.

    I got a real lot out of your entry on versions (http://weblogs.asp.net/Chris_Pratley/archive/2004/02/10/71142.aspx), and I even forwarded it to my boss. As a developer, I appreciate hearing a particular point of view on the sort of stuff that goes on in development of big projects.

    Keep up the good work, mate!

  16. Anonymous says:

    As everybody else said, I like your way of writing and I think I can definately learn quite a few thinks on project management, product development and few other qualities of a good manager from you (based on your posts so far) so actually you are helping me out for something.

    Secondly you work for Microsoft and it’s good to see how things work there and how situations are dealt with. I am sure if you keep blogging, after a while people will respect you more for your write ups on blog and other activities than the fact that you work for Microsoft. Robert has obviously earned that.

    Highest regards,

    Tejas Patel

  17. Anonymous says:

    Hi Chris,

    as a reader and a onenote user, your stories also help me understand this product better, while trying to figure out uses for it without a tablet ;-). Insights on product developement are also interesting, as they match (i think) most developers/product managers experience.

    So it’s definitely for the content that I’m subscribed !

  18. Anonymous says:

    Hello Chris!

    I can tell you here and now that the fact that you work at MS has no bearing on my reading your blogs!

    For me – it’s definitely about the content. I’ve enjoyed so far the insights on the process behind OneNote – a product I feel is very well featured for a 1.0 release, and has the potential to go much further and to change the way people work. Indeed – I already can’t imagine working on the move without OneNote any longer (well, maybe a slight exaggeration – but I’d be severely disadvantaged and more than a little lost)!

    I say – take advantage of this fantastic new medium. It allows you to canvass your audience like never before. Here, you can let us know (as you have done) why OneNote is the way it is, what features have been lost along the way during development, what features you’re maybe thinking of putting in the next version. On our part, we’re more than happy to provide opinions and thoughts on whatever you might ask us.

    As you say – getting beta testers to provide meaningful feedback is hard work… Think of this blog as an additional port of call to canvass us for thoughts…

    Anyway – I’ve wittered on for too long. I’d encourage you to keep up the blogs – they’re very insightful and allow us to appreciate what you and your team are doing with OneNote. Also – if you’re comfortable with it, let us know a bit more about yourself personally. The blogs I enjoy the most are those with a mix of business, technical and personal postings – it allows us to get to know the well-rounded individual that you most certainly are…

    :o)

  19. Anonymous says:

    Chris,

    I enjoy your blog and hope you’ll keep at it. I’m a big fan of OneNote and your blog has given extremely well written and interesting insight into both project management and project lifecycle topics. I’ve been enthralled reading the processes that occurred in creating OneNote. It’s been very enjoyable.

    Best wishes,

    Jason Priesmeyer

  20. Anonymous says:

    One important thing about MSFT bloggers describing the methods and procedures they use to develop, test, release and maintain software is that (if the blog is convincing) it counters the often heard ‘Open source (i.e.Moz) stuff is at least developed to an open process, with visible bug lists and so on, so it must be of higher quality and more trustworthy’. That may not be true, but without some visibility of how thigs are done inside the Redmond fortress, such views tend to be believed. Actually we haven’t heard much about code reviews, verification methods and testing in general, even with the current emphasis on ‘trustworthy computing’ and security. Confidence in the supplier is in short measure in the software world, and such confidence as there is is easily destroyed. Honest feedback on management problems at the project level is invaluable in building confidence.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Speaking as a fellow microsoft blogger, I blog because it gives me regular touch into my customers that I wouldn’t otherwise have. The technology makes it easy, but it’s the end goal that really keeps me going. So therefore the "write for yourself" mantra doesn’t work for me, since I’m not usually writing for myself (although sometimes I do). But since I enjoy blogging as a way of reaching out to customers and hearing from them, I continue to do it. My favorite blog entries are the ones that answer a question I got, or the ones which have a lot of comments from customers.

    I also like sharing how things work at Microsoft, such as about software development processes – I find the whole area fascinating, so I love reading blogs like yours and joelonsoftware.com.

    As far as topics go: Given that I just got a tablet PC yesterday, I’d love to know more about how you decided which tablet-specific features to support and other things you had to take into consideration in that process.

  22. Anonymous says:

    My blog is mostly a way of broadcasting to a few family and friends with a searchable archive that I don’t lose whenever I rebuild my box.

    Your blog is one of my favorite windows into the company upon which I am betting my career. Please keep it up!

  23. Anonymous says:

    Dear Chris,

    Please continue blogging!

    Your blog is extremely informative and helpful. I already forwarded this blog to many peers and software enthusiasts, and all of them are fascinated by the insights and tips you provide. In addition to Raymond Chen’s blog, I think this is the most interesting and useful one to read – it helps me better understand and defend Microsoft and its products, and it helps me create better software for the Windows platform.

    I assume that most readers just don’t give feedback (I haven’t done so far, too), so there could be the impression that the blog has only a few readers. I’m sure this is definitely not the case!

    Two suggestions:

    1. You could explicitely ask for feedback at the end of your entries from time to time so that readers are encouraged to provide one.

    2. You could shorten the entries if it takes a lot effort to write them. I’d be glad to see regular new posts, but they don’t have to be quite long all the time.

    Thanks for an invaluable blog!

    Kind regards,

    Roland

  24. Anonymous says:

    I enjoy reading your articles. They provide a nice insight to development issues, and notably those at MS. Trust me, even if we dont always provide feedback, we’re usually out there reading!

  25. Anonymous says:

    Keep Bloggin Chris.

    Your blog entries add more flavor to my blog diet.

    -As an owner of small softwareshop I have already learned a lot from the information you post

    -Your blog adds a human face to the MS empire

    -Your hesitation about blogging makes you human

    You being human made me post this comment 🙂

    Kris

    <a href="http://www.project-beheer&quot; title="planning en projectbeheer">planning en projectbeheer</a>