I get a lot of questions on "how do you do this blogging thing?". I guess it must appear to be pretty difficult. Really, it's not all that hard when you break it down into pieces.
There's the creative side of blogging which I will make no attempt to explain. For example, outside of work, I'm a musician -- but I could never teach someone how to do it like I do it. I know, I've tried and failed utterly at this.
The mechanics, however, can easily be shared.
And it's really not all that exotic ... nor time-consuming.
The Life Of A Corporate Blogger
Maybe you should too.
I do not have an editorial staff. Every word that appears here came from my own keyboard. There is no formal approval process for anything I write.
I've been doing it a while with some modicum of success: over a thousand posts, and over two million lifetime page views. It's probably the best thing I've ever done for myself, career-wise.
I'm always on the lookout for bloggable topics -- stuff that I find interesting, and hopefully others will as well. Like many of you, I cruise cyberspace and surf what everyone's talking about. Occasionally, I find an engaging bloggable topic there, but I've got a much better source -- my own work.
I get exposed to vast parts of EMC, and indirectly VMware and now Pivotal. I also have the privilege of meeting some amazing customers and partners who frequently have fascinating insights of their own. I interact with our industry ecosystem: competitors, alliance partners, startups, etc.
There is no shortage of raw material in my world.
Lots of people at EMC know I blog, and they send along ideas that may or may not turn into a blog. Sometimes these are about products or technologies, sometimes it's about an internal effort that's worthy of sharing, other times it's just an observation they've made and they want to share. Not everything is useable, but much of it is. I also try to spend time "coolhunting" -- tracking down interesting people who are doing interesting things.
I have about 60,000 potential candidates to work with :)
Extracting The Content
Much like an investigative reporter, often I'm motivated to go deeper than whatever summary I've been presented. I collect powerpoint decks, white papers, talk to people, maybe conduct an interview -- it's sort of on me to pull out the less-than-obvious aspects that make things interesting.
And then the distillation process starts ... getting to the root of the story at hand. That is entirely subjective work, I've found.
There are a large number of themes I work with, and that sort of serves as a framework to tell the story at hand, and hopefully tie it back to other things I've talked about in the past. I am not shy about sharing my personal perspectives and inherent biases -- that's what makes us people vs. automatons.
We're not writing press releases here ...
Assembling The Story
I then sit down and write something. I use a simple ASCII editor because embedded formatting characters are not your friend. I time-box myself -- if the story doesn't tell itself, it's probably not worth telling. Maybe 30 minutes max for a first pass in most cases. About 20% of my first efforts are eventually abandoned.
If I like what I've written, I then send usually send my draft off to the people who are involved -- embedded in an email -- just to get their quick feedback. Usually, it comes back unscathed, but they often spot one or two things I might have missed. I politely tell them they've got 24 hours to respond, otherwise I'll assume what I've written is OK with them :)
This delay gives me some time to go work on other things, and to come back later and look more critically at what I've written. I usually spend another 10 minutes or so cleaning up spelling, story flow, word choice and similar.
Time To Create The Post
I host my blog on TypePad, which has proven to be a great paid service. I own the blog, even though it's clearly labeled as "EMC" at the top. I chose not to put in the standard "fig leaf" disclaimer that you see so often. I believe I'm entirely responsible for what I write, and no disclaimer is going to change that.
A cut-and-paste into the TypePad editor, and it's time for some light formatting: bold, italic, white space etc. I then embed images: either PPT content that's been part of the story, relevant screen shots, or a short jaunt with Google Images for some fun. The next pass is embedding links, adding tags, and doing a final spell check.
And, of course, frequently saving the draft as I go along.
The Moment Of Truth
Finally, I think the post is ready to go -- it looks good, it reads well, etc. And then I take a short break. When I come back, I give it a final "how will this be perceived by others?" pass to avoid unintentional self-destruction, and I then hold my breath and press the irreversible "post" button.
I grab the link address, jump on Twitter, and share the link with my followers. And we're almost done ...
Gauging The Feedback
Part of being a competent blogger is trying to assess whether people find any value in what you've written. Sure, it'd be nice if they'd tell you, but that's the exception rather than the rule.
Instead, I have to try to discern this indirectly: number of page hits, retweets on Twitter, signs of syndication in other publications, etc.
It's not entirely accurate nor precise, but you can sort of gauge when people are engaging with your content, and when it's simply being passed by.
The Long Tail
There's often a multi-week lag between posting and sufficient dissemination with reaction, so I don't form an opinion on a piece of work until it's been out there for a while. You get emails from people, or you see a steady popularity in the page hits for a piece, and so on.
There's an even longer tail thanks to Google and PageRank. Don't ask me to explain how and why it works, but when you take a longer view (e.g. more than six months), some pieces hold up surprisingly well in terms of attracting readers.
That's About It
Learning to blog at a corporate level is like learning to ride a bike, or speak a new language, or pick up a new instrument: the more you do it, the easier it gets.
Until, one day, you don't really think about it much anymore :)