Saturday, February 16, 2008

Saturday Morning Musings - three reasons why I blog

Photo: Helen, Denise, me, Clare at Clare's eighteenth. I have run this photo before, but it seemed to fit with this post.

My Saturday Morning Musings are important to me.

Early Saturday morning is the quietest time. Further, even though I know that it's an illusion, the weekend seems to stretch out before me, reducing pressure. So I have a chance to think and reflect.

Earlier in the week, Legal Eagle tagged me in the Gimme three good reasons why you blog meme that appears to have been started by Bruce. Thank you LE for your plug for this blog. I thought that I might use this tag as an entry point this Saturday.

My reasons for blogging have in fact changed since I wrote my first test post back in March 2006. More precisely, many of the same reasons are still there, but the ranking has changed.

Thinking about this, I think that I would now offer the following top three ranking.

Belonging to a village

I grew up in a world of overlapping communities - extended family, town, the university, politics - that was intensely local while also being regional, national and global. I write often about this now vanished world because it is important to me and I do not want it to be lost beyond recall.

At the time I started blogging my world was much diminished, shrunk to a home office far removed from the broad world of my past. Sometimes, I would not see anyone at all for eight to ten hours- human contact was limited to the constant chatter of emails.

I do not regret my decision to work so much from home to take on the primary child care role. I gained a lot. But oh dear it can be hard when you are alone and everybody else is busy doing things. You see, I am happy to be alone, but cannot manage isolation.

The interesting and unexpected thing about blogging is that it recreated a village world for me.

As in any village, there are the people you only really know by sight or reputation. They are part of the village, you know who they are friendly with, how they fit in. You may even coincide at meetings, but they are still a bit separate.

Club Troppo and Catallaxy are examples in my blogging world.

The contributors are familiar to me, some I have met in both blogging and real life, there are individual links as with Katy or Rafe and I. I even helped out at one point with Club Troppos' Missing Link segment. But I am still a little uncomfortable with both blogs because they sit outside my own views.

As in any village, there are those you meet on a regular basis. Sometimes, Marcellous or the Blonde Canadian or Legal Eagle are all examples, you see them less often, maybe once a week.

Sometimes, Neil is the classic example, you spend a fair bit of time at the pub. We seem to meet for a beer most nights. The conversation can get tense, but we generally work our way through issues to a common understanding because we actually have many common views on village life.

Often others drop in. I seem to bump into Lexcen a lot, for example. Some of the callers, Kangaroo Valley David is an example, live a bit out of town and do not have their own blogs, but still call in on a regular basis.

As in any village, there can be fights and misunderstandings. At one stage, I upset Thomas so much that I really thought that we were never going to speak again.

Often links deepen as people meet in other ways. So Legal Eagle and I became friends on Facebook, this was a real thrill, and now I see that LE and Neil are also linked.

As in any village, there is real frienship and back-up. When I was in trouble at one point, David Anderson emailed me off line offering support. This is just one of many examples. I do not forget things like that.

Then friends leave. The blogging world can be a hard place. Burnout is common. So Adrian stopped, although I still follow him through Facebook.

Today, working on-site again, I do not need the village in quite the same way. But it remains a central part of my life, still my own community.

A sense of personal and professional competence

One of the difficulties of working alone can be the erosion of one's sense of personal and professional competence.

In consulting, we talk about half-life.

You come into the profession with a knowledge bank based on previous education and experience. This quickly stales, so that its half-life is about a year.

All consultants mine their own experience. If you do not replace the extracted ore with new knowledge, your professional competence declines.

Working alone, and especially if things are going pear shape, it can be hard to measure your own competence relative to your peers. Have you been going backwards? Self-doubt sets in. In my case, this had become a very serious problem.

After the village, the single biggest thing that blogging did for me was to establish an external and indeed international benchmark against which I could measure my competence. I found that I could still cut it, that my knowledge and skill base was still okay.

I should have known this. After all, I was coordinating a network of consultants with an international membership, so I could measure myself against this group. Still, very real doubts had set in.

The problem with consulting is that in most cases you are selling yourself. So your own self-doubts quickly translate into doubts in the minds of clients and potential clients. This creates a rather nasty, reinforcing, cycle.

The realisation that I could still cut it, that indeed I was okay at international level and still had things to contribute, did not come immediately, but come it did. I am still working through how I use this in the next stage of my life.

Personal satisfaction in writing

I have always enjoyed writing. I also have a number of things that I have wanted to write about. Blogging has provided a vehicle for doing this.

If you look at my writing, you will see that I write at a number of different levels.

At one level, I use the process to sort my own thoughts out.

This is not always easy. Sometimes, as in my discussions on the sorry issue, it can be downright unpleasant. I do not enjoy not sleeping because I am worrying about something.

At a second level, and I cannot help this, I am trying to educate. This can give my posts a lecturing tone, defeating my own purpose. But it is something that I value because these posts have often generated interest and discussion.

At a third level, I am trying to record and save.

As someone who loves history and who has many unfinished historical projects, as someone who believes that the things that I love are being forgotten or misinterpreted, blogging provides a mechanism to get things down for the record.

This is a slow process. Blogging is not a good system for some of the things I am trying to do.

This is one area where I have adopted a long term time horizon.

I put the first post on New England's History in November 2006. I am still to reach 1,000 visitors on this blog. But why should people come?

To this point, I have only posted 65 times. Further, many of those posts are framework posts designed for later additions.

This is not a blog in the conventional sense of the word. Rather, it is designed to build into a historical resource.

At some point, my best guess is about two years from now on current progress, the level of content will acquire genuine value. At that point, I expect traffic to increase.

Even now at this still very early stage, the distinctive feature of this blog is that the average page view per visitor is around three. That is very high.

Well, time to finish. I hope that I have answered your challenge LE.


ninglun said...

Dear me, Jim; you'll have people thinking I'm a pisspot, when I am in fact quite abstemious these days. ;)

Jim Belshaw said...

It's a real pity, Neil, that a beer shared over the internet does not have quite the same effect as one in real life!

Thomas said...

My friend, you'd have to do something much worse than disagree with me to keep me quiet. I quite enjoyed this post Jim. You've beaten me to the punch with it too - I've been working on something similar for a while now.

Jim Belshaw said...

Glad to hear it, Thomas! Don't let me stop you following a similar line, or at least theme.

Anonymous said...

I agree, it is a really nice feeling of a village. It was particularly important to me when I wasn't working and had little contact with anyone other than the Bad Baby.

I haven't been able to stop by all my fave blogs so much now that the Bad Baby has stopped having a midday sleep. Still, at least that means she gets to sleep at night at a decent hour, so I can stop by now!

Jim Belshaw said...

Good morning, LE. Babies are indeed demanding. I have something of the same problem with my best liked blogs because of the present combination of work with family.