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No More Excuses

October 6th, 2007

I’ve been telling anybody who will listen, since even before I acquired MarsEdit, that if you want to be a significant member of the Mac developer community, you need to have a blog. In fact, you need a blog even if you’re not a Mac developer. It’s good for your business, it’s good for your social life, and it can even be good for your ego. You don’t have to use MarsEdit to write it, but you need to have one. Case closed.

And if you’ve been slow to pick up the habit, you better get moving. People from all professions and social circles are learning how important blogging is to staying connected in our modern digital world. Kevin O’Keefe is a former trial lawyer who is now trying to impress upon other lawyers the importance of marketing yourself on the web, with his own blog: Real Lawyers Have Blogs.

That’s right. Even the lawyers are blogging now. The “no duh” wisdom of starting a blog is spreading like wildfire. You have to ask yourself now if you’re involved with technology, do you want your lawyer to have a blog before you do?

My friend Oliver Brown once related to me some wisdom he had learned, I believe from his grandmother: “Everybody has at least one novel in them.” And the same is more than true when it comes to blogs. There’s a successful blog in you, you just need to figure out what it is. So what are you waiting for?

Here are common excuses I hear for not blogging, and my reaction to them:

Excuse: “Nobody reads/will read my blog…”

Well, duh. That’s because you haven’t written anything in 3 months, and the last time you did, it was about what you ate for breakfast. You can write more often and you can choose a topical area to focus on. What’s amazing about the web is it truly is so huge and there are so many people hungry for content, that your blog will gain a readership as long as you keep working at it.

Excuse: “I don’t have anything to say…”

If you can’t think of anything interesting to say, you might have to face the sad possibility that you’re not an interesting person. But that’s almost certainly not true. You just need to figure out what you do that’s interesting, and then share it.

Perhaps what makes you interesting is the way you solve programming bugs on the Mac, or perhaps it’s your extensive knowledge of postage stamps. Every time you get excited about something and wish you could share your discovery with somebody, the blog is your answer.

Maybe you share it with the world, or maybe you just share it with your close friends and family. Lots of people these days run more than one blog. A professional blog. A baby blog. A hobby blog. A humor blog. What makes you special? Who can you keep in touch with, educate, or entertain by way of a blog?

Excuse: “I’m not a very good writer…”

Blogs are conventionally prose-oriented, but there’s no reason they need to be exclusively so. If what you have to share is visual, then post photos or drawings to your blog. If you’re a wonderful orator, start a podcast (just another word for an audio blog). Perhaps your talent is writing one-line humorous quips; nobody says your blog entries need to be longer than one sentence! Math nerd? How about a “Proof of the Week” blog, or similar puzzling challenges for your readers?

Excuse: “I can’t blog because my employer won’t let me…”

First of all, what you do in your personal time is your business. If you’ve convinced yourself that your job can be jeopardized by engaging in a social life outside your company, then I’m really sad for you and your situation. Sucks to be you!

What’s more likely is you simply can’t blog specifically about what you’re working on. So what? Is that all you have to share with the world? Even if you can’t blog about the specifics of your work, I’m betting you can find oblique topics that relate your experiences with those of other people.

And if you’re really, truly scared for your job? Don’t blog under your real name. Sites like Blogger and WordPress make it a snap to set up a free blog that is very difficult to trace back to you. How do you think Fake Steve Jobs got away with his shenanigans for so long?

Excuse: “I don’t have time to blog…”

There’s a reason I put this one last. You’ve read this far through my blog? Don’t you have better things to do!? If you’re spending time reading other peoples’ blogs then you’ve obviously set aside some time in your busy schedule to engage with the world blogging community. The fact that you’re spending all that time listening and none of it speaking is just a matter of allocation. Join the conversation.

Lots of people don’t realize how little time it can take to run a blog. With modern publishing systems, adding new content is literally as easy as typing it into a text field and clicking “Send,” or “Publish,” or “Save.”

You’ve just got to take the leap and start your first blog. Once you do, you’ll wonder why you waited so long.

17 Responses to “No More Excuses”

  1. Karsten Says:

    this post reminds me of the time probably a year ago when i talked to Blake. He just got back from C4[0] and told me that you told everyone without a blog to start a blog. Blake told me to start a blog and i think not too late after C4 (in december actually) i actually did have a blog at briksoftware. and just a week later Blake also started his blog… it’s all your fault ;-)

  2. Robert 'Groby' Blum Says:

    Let me add one more remark – you don’t even need one specific topic.

    God knows I’d go mad if I’d just write about one topic all the time. Instead, I hop all over the place, from politics to programming to games to nature – and there still seem to be about 150 (for now) people who’re checking back daily what I have to say. (I’ve got no idea why ;)

  3. Kevin OKeefe Says:

    Wow Daniel, someone in the software community quoting referencing my work as to why developers need to blog. ;)

    And in a few minutes, I’ll be referencing in a you post to the legal community about ‘no excuses.

    Keep up the great work with MarsEdit. Should have know that an entrepreneur acquiring it from NewsGator would be a plus for users.

    I’m up for anything I can do to evangelize its use into the mac users legal vertical.

  4. Geoff Green Says:

    No kidding. I’m thinking of returning my copy of BBEdit and my copy of Yojimbo because Rich Siegel doesn’t blog enough. Sure, the software gets the job done, and sure, he *used* to be a major Mac developer, but without a blog, I can only assume that Bare Bones is going to fade away…

  5. Matt Mattson Says:

    Is Barebones still in business? Huh. Learn something new everyday. :)

  6. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    Karsten – really glad you were indirectly affected by my rampant blog-encouraging :) And at C4[0] for example, I had no idea one day I would be developing MarsEdit!

    Geoff: I’m interpreting your comment as sarcastic. Point taken that you don’t need to be a prolific blogger to be significant as a Mac developer. But all the same, Rich does have a blog, and I do believe it helps his public imagine and Bare Bones’s reputation.

    His is not a particularly good example because he started out with a ton of recognition and good PR before blogging even existed. Often on this blog I’m assuming a target audience of people who are trying to work their way up the indie developer ladder, since there are far more of us in that situation than there are “already at the top.”

  7. David Young Says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how much bright people undervalue their thoughts. I can only account for it by thinking back to the ridicule most bright people endure throughout high school. :)

  8. David Van Brink Says:

    “You can write more often and you can choose a topical area to focus on. — … — will gain a readership as long as you keep working at it.”

    Say, here’s the problem I’ve been wrestling with, mostly in terms of technical implementation but partly also blog-career-wise. The problem is: I have multiple interests. So I make parallel bloggable progress on multiple fronts, obviously sometimes more on one than another in any given timespan. So my blog ends up apparently scattered. This probably does little to attract interested readers, since they won’t have all the same interests.

    As a reader of blogs, I find blogs on topics I like, and it’s fine if each one’s output is only occasional.

    Should I just run multiple blogs? That seems tedious. Are there WordPress tricks or design choices to make sort-of-separate blogs, so readers can find the track they like?

    Any tips appreciated, O Purveyor and Inspirer of Blogging!

    (signed) Scattered in 831

  9. Peter D. Says:

    Most developers really are too busy making Mac products to bother with being a “significant member of the Mac developer community”. It’s generally the up-and-comers, rather than established developers, that try to make a presence for themselves through blogging.

    Blogging and developing are two entirely different things. Sure, there is overlap, but that’s marketing.

    The question shouldn’t be “do I want to be a significant member of some community”, but “what do I want to create?”.

    “Communities” are fickle things; fads and darlings come and go. But solid products with a strong support, they last.

  10. Adam Says:

    All good points.
    That’s why I finally decided to write a real post on my cocoa blog.

    I installed WordPress over a year ago, and finally started writing posts about three months ago. They are boring posts about new releases and why I wasn’t blogging, and why no one knew I wasn’t blogging because no one would read a blog by someone explaining this recursive paradox.

    So, one thing I think is missing from your list is not blogging because no one will even discover your blog to know if it sucks or not. I guess the only solution is shameless self promotion.

    How do I do that?

  11. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    David – I tend to think it’s better to at least have a predominant theme for a blog, and not to stray too far or too often from that theme. For instance, I tend to not talk about my hobbies or non-computer interests here, unless I can pull it back into something vaguely tech or business related. I managed to talk a bit about sailing by putting it into a general goal-pursuing context.

    But you’re right, it does take more work to run more than one blog. Of course a tool like MarsEdit makes it a lot easier.

    Peter: I agree that it’s more important for people who are trying to establish new presences, but I also thing that individual developers from more established companies can do themselves and their employers a good service by being an active part of the community. Especially when it comes the sharing source code or ideas about developing the business, I know I respect and appreciate companies whose employees do this, whether they are 1 employee or thousands of employees strong.

  12. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    Adam – shameless self promotion is often appropriate, but even if you stop short of that, you can get new readers just by participating in the comments of like-minded blogs, and leaving your URL so your name is clickable. It’s one of the really beautiful things about blogs with comments, I think.

  13. Trausti Thor Says:

    I try to make a great mac software, and write a once in a while blog, how am I doing ? http://traustithor.blogspot.com/

  14. Trausti Thor Says:

    Whoot. Agree totally

  15. Douglas Anders Says:

    Your post is completely correct. Several years ago, I was desperately looking for a source of news about Frank Lloyd Wright events and sites. I never found it, but (after looking for over a year) It occured to me that I should just do it myself. I was sure I would suck at it, but since the primary purpose was to amuse myself and stay informed, I figured that the qualilty of the blog wouldn’t matter much.

    Today, while my audience is still small, it includes a few scholars, a film-maker who made a FLW documentary (not Ken Burns) and well-known author and photographer of Wright’s work and several people who manage Wright’s buildings as museums. Absolutly, great for the ego!

  16. Michael Kirkham Says:

    This post definitely could have been written at me. I have been good at using the blog for release notices since I set it up, at least, but I’ve yet to get into the swing of other types of blog posts (articles, etc).

    I guess you could say my excuse is sort of in the “I don’t have time to blog” class. But it’s more subconscious than that. I know I need to make time to blog, but I’ve had so many things going on lately that I’ll sit down at the computer and before I know it the sun has set and risen again. I just forget and time flies. :) Hopefully that’ll lessen a little bit when recently hired staff gets up to speed and I can delegate more.

    Two things I really should focus on doing are committing myself to a 30 minute time slot every week for blogging (even if it’s just brainstorming), and spending a little extra time with support/pre-sales inquiries turning the answers into a suitable form for a blog post.

  17. David Van Brink Says:

    ^^^ Mike — Your product is so specialized that it seems inevitable that you’ll have some deep insights into that problem domain, the protocols and usages and all that, that others won’t have. As well as things which apply specifically to your product. A perfect opportunity to inform and to sell…

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