I read a lot of blogs on blogging, mostly to try to make the Bamboo Project a better place to visit. But it occurs to me that much of the advice on blogging that's out there isn't designed for bloggers who want to focus on learning--it's for bloggers who are trying to market themselves or their organizations in some fashion. In fact, many of the principles of blogging that apply to selling yourself may, in fact, impede your progress if your primary goal is to blog for learning. So I started to come up with some alternative advice for bloggers who want to learn.
- Worry first about "adding value" for yourself. One of the principle tenets of "regular" blogging is that your posts should always add value for your readers. But when you're blogging for learning, the main person you should be adding value for is yourself. If you're using your blog as a learning tool, not all of your posts are going to be value-add for readers because not all of them will be at the same place as you. More to the point, if you're using your blog to process your experiences, then there will be times that those thoughts will be raw, ill-formed and if you're worried about producing a project for your readers, then you may not actually support your own learning as you should. Which actually leads me to my next point.
- Think about process, not product. A lot of "marketing" blogging is about giving readers a finished product to refer to. That's not what learning is about, though--it's about the process that leads to a product. If you're going to be using your blog to learn, you need to be posting about your thinking processes and what you go through to arrive at a product. Don't be afraid to write about questions and half-formed thoughts and ideas. That's part of learning and that's how you can start to get more feedback from your community. Interestingly, these kinds of posts often end up being more interesting and engaging to readers anyway, so if you're trying to build readership, modeling your learning process can actually help.
- Don't get hung up on finding massive quantities of readers. Focus on building the right kind of community. It's easy when you're blogging to be drawn into SEO strategies and tips on ways to build RSS readership. But when you're blogging for learning, your goal shouldn't be to find as many readers as possible. It should be to form a learning community--to find readers who will join you in your learning journey, both in supporting your learning, as well as in engaging you in theirs. Bloggers everywhere worry about getting the right kind of audience, but when you're blogging for learning, it becomes even more critical that you find fellow travelers.
- Make mistakes. The pressure in blogging is huge to always appear like you have it together. After all, you're operating in a very public forum. But learning is about making mistakes and when we're focused on looking good in front of readers, that means we're less likely to think about and share those places where we've screwed up, even though those are the most fertile places for learning. Blogging for learning means blogging about mistakes, so don't be afraid to share them.
I'm sure there are more bits of advice that I'm missing here. These are few that come to mind for me right now. What are your thoughts on blogging for learning? What advice would you give to people who are using their blogs primarily as a vehicle for development and growth?
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