Ten Reasons Why Blogging Doesn't Matter


I picked up Tim Bray's Ten Reasons Why Blogging is Good For Your Career last Thursday, but I didn't have much time to expand upon what I thought of it.

A couple of days later, however, having gotten several e-mails (mostly internal, from friends asking me what I thought of his post), I thought I'd pick this up again. I'm also bored senseless of having to finish a report until Monday, and figured trying to apply some common sense to his points would make my mental gears work better. I didn't get the report finished (yet - I'll be up until 2AM again, I bet), but it's a quiet Sunday, and this was more interesting to write anyway.

One by one, then:

1. You have to get noticed to get promoted.

And sometimes you're not likely to get promoted at all if you're noticeable in aspects your leadership doesn't feel comfortable with. Europeans aren't faceless, gray corporate cogs, but individualism is definitely not as welcomed as in American companies (the expression "sticking out like a sore thumb" springs to mind).

Despite the preachings of modern management gurus, organizations are having trouble fostering creativity through empowering individuals (especially if they publish their opinions without what is seen as "sensible control"), and will always promote the quiet, reliable guy over the noisy "troublemaker", even if (s)he is merely outspoken.

Plus, of course, being noticed outside the company is no assurance of internal notoriety.

2. You have to get noticed to get hired.

No, you have to prove you're an asset. Getting noticed by having strong opinions is more likely to label you as a prima donna even before you step into a meeting room, be it for interviews or for decision-making.

Being quietly reliable is the way to go, because, again, people who get noticed are more often labeled as potential troublemakers than as people you want by your side under stress.

Valuable people are noticeable because they get things done, not because they make noises about what they're doing - and that's the way to get hired, by showing consistent results.

3. It really impresses people when you say "Oh, I've written about that, just google for XXX and I'm on the top page" or "Oh, just google my name."

No, it doesn't, it just makes you look like a dork.

The people who actually make decisions know about Google, but they don't use it as a yardstick for what you know - and most of the time, what you've written about is not what they are looking for when they're evaluating you either as a prospective hire or for a promotion.

4. No matter how great you are, your career depends on communicating. The way to get better at anything, including communication, is by practicing. Blogging is good practice.

This one I agree with, having spent most of my career doing precisely that (communicating). However, blogging does not help one whit with other, more important forms of communication, like meeting people face-to-face, looking them in the eye, and figuring out what makes them tick.

Writing is very important (and doing so in a clear, captivating way is an art form of sorts), but it can be construed as egotistical if you keep harping about your own achievements or interests, and can all too easily create a distorted image of yourself.

People who read your personal blog before meeting you in a business setting are likely to have all sorts of misconceptions. So if you communicate for a living, do it consistently - and do it internally, too.

5. Bloggers are better-informed than non-bloggers. Knowing more is a career advantage.

Balderdash. Bloggers are not necessarily better-informed. They might be more focused or be the first to publish the facts, but they are too often ignorant of the wider picture (no matter what the subject matter) or the consequences of writing what they do.

Bloggers tend to have strong, acute viewpoints on niche issues - a lot like academia, in fact. Except that unlike research papers, blogging is not subject to peer review before going to press, nor does it need to have bibliography and references.

Facts may be checked or confirmed by other blogs (and it works OK for news), but the really important things from a business perspective (like industry trends, lobbies, management strategies, etc.), are never blogged about - they just sit there in the background, while bloggers lap up "newsbytes" like hungry minnows.

Knowing more might be a career advantage, but knowing how to look beyond the facts at hand is the true advantage.

6. Knowing more also means you're more likely to hear about interesting jobs coming open.

Hasn't happened to me yet. But then, this is Europe, where changing jobs is not something you do at the end of the week. Come to think of it, this hysteria about corporate blogs and blogging in business settings seems to be almost completely US-centric (as are most technology blogs).

So this might be true, but only if you live in the United States.

7. Networking is good for your career. Blogging is a good way to meet people.

Yes to the first, maybe to the second. I have definitely gotten more correspondence, phone calls, etc., and I've had the opportunity to keep some of those contacts open (despite my overwhelming schedule). But, again, I don't think it's a way to actually meet people - I tend to follow the blogs of people I already know, though.

Again, this seems to be a US thing. Europeans tend to take longer to get to know and form relationships with people. I would even hazard saying that we tend to make "friends for life" and not "business friendships" - blogging relationships in the US seem to me somewhat plastic and spur-of-the-moment, let's-share-this-cool-vision things.

Maybe I'm being cynical, but look at the most popular technology-related personal blogs. Count the number of Americans. Make up your own mind about what this means.

8. If you're an engineer, blogging puts you in intimate contact with a worse-is-better 80/20 success story. Understanding this mode of technology adoption can only help you.

I agree with this one too - The main reason this site's tagline is "Tech Made Simple" is that most technology is designed by techs, for techs - and not for the people on the street. The mobile industry has ample examples of that at all levels, and it wasn't until the last couple of years that you could hand over some phones to people without the least technical know-how and have them use those effectively.

We're still quite a way off, though, and it isn't looking much better as far as handsets are concerned - witness the recent surge of Microsoft phones (which are all but simple to use) and the bloated sluggishness of Series 60 devices.

9. If you're in marketing, you'll need to understand how its rules are changing as a result of the current whirlwind, which nobody does, but bloggers are at least somewhat less baffled.

I used to be in Marketing (in fact, I still bounce to and fro regularly, doing stuff on both sides of the fence), and quite honestly don't think full-time Marketing people will bother to keep track of blogs, if only because they have built-in anti-hype filters (otherwise, they would not be able to generate their own spin on things).

Blogging may be pervasive, but it all too easily falls prey to astroturfing and bias.

And what Marketing people are likely to find in blogs is far too removed from their immediate concerns (although those lucky few involved in new product development are likely to be exceptions these days, both in IT and telecoms).

10. It's a lot harder to fire someone who has a public voice, because it will be noticed.

If your company is pondering whether to fire you or not, there are probably a lot more issues on the table than whether or not you have a public voice.

I don't subscribe to the FUD spread by "the press" (although to me it looks a lot more like hysterical bloggers) regarding blog-related firings - there have to be other reasons, and conspiracy theorists can say all they want.

I would, however, love to read through commonly-adopted employee blog policies. My disclaimer was written toward forcing me to be more self-restrictive than any company could ever be, but I'm curious to see what companies in Europe believe to be acceptable conduct.