Sunday, July 23, 2017

My blog turns 10

pexels-photo-484363

July 14 2017, marked a significant anniversary for this ‘wee tiny’ blog of mine. It has just past the 10 year mark! I actually think that I started before the 14th of July 2007 but the first entry here on blogger is:

http://blog.ciaops.com/2007/07/determining-whether-your-machine-has.html

So, let me tell you the story of my blog over the years.

The genesis of the blog was back around 2003 on Small Business Server 2003. When I was applying Windows Updates to my SBS box I wanted a place to record what I had just installed. The reason for this was I finding a lot of updates at the time were causing issues on the SBS so recording what I had put on when made it easier to roll back if necessary.

Most of this recording was done the Companyweb wiki, which I soon expanded to holding more than just server updates. Soon, the Companyweb wiki was full of all those hard learnings I made over time.

About this time I discovered a colleague was ‘blogging’ using some proprietary blog software (sorry, I can’t remember for the life of me what it was). Finding the concept intriguing I did what any technician did, I downloaded a copy of the software, set it up on my own web server and started publishing to the Internet. Me too, me too.

As time went on this software became harder and harder to manage and more and more things started to go wrong with it. I decided to move my blogging platform to a standalone version of SharePoint, again running on a server I managed and maintained.

That solution worked for many years. I eventually virtualised the underlying hardware the blog was running it on and continued to run it for many years. In fact you may still find some of today’s links pointing to the old SharePoint location.

The straw that broke the camel’s back for SharePoint as a blogging platform was all the blog spam that was accumulating. I really wanted people to be able to add value to conversation and comments I had started but alas the SharePoint platform was simply overwhelmed by the amount of blog spam being thrown at it, no matter what I tried to prevent it.

Another reason for shifting platforms is that when I went overseas to speak at an event I was pointing everyone to my blog for information but unbeknownst to me, my server running the blog had blown a power supply the day I left and was down until I returned. Not good.

At that point I knew it was time to move to a completely hosted system and someone else worry about the infrastructure. I had a look at a few platforms but settled on Google’s blogger for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was simple. Next, it didn’t seem to have as many security and vulnerability issues and others and most importantly, I figured that being on a Google platform would give me the best SEO ‘Google-juice’.

So, around May 2010 I moved all the existing posts from my own SharePoint machine to Blogger, and continued from there. I did this manually (i.e. copy and paste) and as you can imagine it took a long, long, long time. That also taught me a lesson about backing up my posts to another medium. I now do so using an automated sequence in If This Then That that takes a copy of each blog post I create automatically and saves it to a cloud based OneNote. That means that I not only have a back up copy of all of my posts on every device, it also means I can easily search all my posts offline and easily reuse them elsewhere. If you have a hosted blog, my question to you is, how are you backing up your content?

Since then, Blogger has worked well for me. I use Open Live Writer to compose my posts and upload to Blogger. A few years ago there was a hiccup with publishing as Microsoft had discontinued Live Writer but had made it open source (a la Open Live Writer). However, Google had made changes to improve the security of services like Blogger and now Open Live Writer couldn’t post! Talk about painful. However, the end result was that representatives at Google and Microsoft worked together to resolve the issue for everyone (and there were many). You can read more about this here:

A story with a happy ending

Apart from that, I really can’t fault Blogger as a platform. I acknowledge that it may not be the most sophisticated and it may not have all the features, but you know what? At the end of the day it does the job of helping me to get my information out so I reckon it is pretty good.

If I add up all the posts I have done here it comes to about 2,309 (including this post) over the 10 years. These days I’m writing about 230 – 240 posts a year, which is effectively one every few days. Some are about my business and what I provide but the majority are around the technologies I work with, these days Office 365 and Azure. Why do I do this? Why do I spend so much time writing and publishing?

In essence, the reason that I blog is chiefly for myself. When I learn something new I have a discipline to document it. In most cases, there is no reason that other can’t benefits from that documentation as well. That’s why I publish what I find here. I have benefited from others shared information so my blog is a small contribution back to greater good I feel.

The second reason I blog and recommend it as a practice to all is that when people ask me what can I do to improve myself and my business? My answer is three fold, read more, write more and speak more. You wanna get better? Consume more information by reading. I’m talking about ‘deep’ reading, not just web articles, I’m talking about books. You can follow what I read here:

Goodreads (reading list) feed -https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/708903-robert

Nothing has expanded my knowledge more than reading and as they say, “Leaders are readers”.

Reading is a private activity but the second leg of improvement comes from writing. There is of course nothing wrong with writing privately and I do that via a journal, however, there is more benefit to be gained by writing publically. The best way to understand this is to watch this video with Seth Godin and Tom Peters.

In essence, writing helps get thoughts out of head and into a form that others can understand. Doing so successfully is a skill worth cultivating, especially in business. Unfortunately, it is a skill I don’t see many developing today. So, by writing stuff down, and making it public, you are improving the way that you communicate with others and you are learning how to deal with others who will judge your work both good and bad, rationally and irrationally. That experience, that risk, is an opportunity for personal growth many don’t take. But if you do, then you have the advantage over the majority who don’t.

The final piece of the puzzle is speaking more. Speaking in public builds on what you have learned in your reading. It builds on the experiences and method you use when you write. It is the quintessential business skill. Those who can speak well can get their point across to others. I was lucky enough to be ‘forced’ into public speaking in my first job out of university. I continued to develop the skill from there by teaching at community college. I continue to polish that skill today with every class I teach, presentation I give or workshop I’m involved with. They say that people fear public speaking more than death. Thus, if you can conquer that fear using a system built on the skills of reading and writing, you become one of the few who no longer fears death. In essence, you become immortal.

Ten years is a long time to be at something in the technology game. I’ve seen and written about a lot of changes in the industry. I hope to be doing the same for many more years to come. It is however, nice to take a breath and reflect on a body of work that started out as nothing more than your own documentation to being a place that random strangers on the internet can find value from that one piece of information they are looking for. I work hard to make it a place worthy of those that subscribe and follow regularly. I welcome constructive comments, not spam though, both good and bad on any post I have or will write. People taking time to comment on a blog post adds additional value on top of what I create, so don’t be afraid to add something. Even something as simple as letting me know the information I provided helped you in some way goes a long way to giving me the energy and focus to dedicate to what I produce here.

Yes, each and every blog post takes time (sometimes a significant amount of time) to create. Yes, I am happy to give it away for free in order that others may benefit because it helps me get better. It helps me improve the way I communicate. It helps me be a better at my business. It helps me 'polish’ my art and improve with each post. The more I write the better I get and the same applies to anyone else who does so regularly and consistently. It ain’t hard. Get behind the keyboard and publish. You’ll be amazed, as I have, at where the journey will take you.