You may have noticed how over the course of the last few days I haven’t had much of a chance to blog over here. And it is not because things may well be so incredibly hectic that I wouldn’t have enough time for it. Quite the opposite, actually. I am continually looking at the prospect of writing away, as, you know, there is always time for blogging, right? In my 11 years of blogging itself I don’t think I have ever experienced the good well known writer’s block when putting together the next article. I have always felt it’s just a matter of whether you have got something interesting, relevant and valuable to share across for others to keep improving with their additional commentary and eventually have a really good conversation on a given topic as a result of it. And today’s musing, while it’s been in my mind for over a week now, is pondering what is a blog without comments, after all? Is it still a blog? Or, on the other hand, just a regular Web site that you dip in your toes for a minute or two and then move on? Should blogs have comments turned off by default and still be called a blog? What do you think?
The main reason why I am reflecting on this topic of whether a blog is still a blog without comments enabled is because over the course of the last few days (nearly a week now!) elsua.net has been under an attack of spam comments that I have never seen in the 11 years that I have been blogging away. So vicious that I eventually had to turn comments off, because even Akismet couldn’t handle the load. And they are still disabled. And it hurts. Tremendously. More than anything else because I feel like I have just killed off the conversation.
This is not the first time that I get hit by spam comments. In fact, till recently, Akismet was telling me it caught over 4 million of them since October 2005 when I started this Internet blog (two years after my Intranet corporate one came alive). However, this is the first time that it’s taking me so long to turn on comments and bring back the conversation. And the issues are still there, which is the main reason why I haven’t been blogging in the last week, because I kept thinking what’s the point of writing over here, if other people can’t read AND comment on the blog, right? (If they so wish, that is…)
Yes, I know plenty of people out there would still view blogging (despite the 20 years that have gone by since the first weblog came out) as a publishing platform where people just show off. Of course, they do. They show off constantly, but not necessarily their selves, but, most importantly, their ideas or deeper thoughts on those topics they are truly passionate about and that they would want to share with others to start off a conversation. That’s where comments kick in.
Yes, I know plenty of people out there think that blogging, in some way, is a kind of therapy and I would probably have to agree with that sentiment, as that is, some times, the kind of effect that I get when I sit down and start writing myself. Like in this case, for instance, this article I am putting together, where, out of sheer frustration about that spam comment attack, I am using it as an opportunity to flush it out, get it out of my system and carry on, hoping that at some point things would go back to normal.
Yes, I know as well plenty of people have been writing over the course of time about the multiple various benefits of blogging and how to get things started with your own, whether for personal or business interests, but perhaps one of my favourite quotes that would keep justifying for me the argument as to why a blog is still incredibly powerful is the one that, just recently, Dave Winer put together under the heading Why Blog?:
“The mission of blogging is to empower all of us to go directly to each other with our expertise. So if you know something as well as anyone else, or you learn something or know something that should be shared, then you should share it on your blog” [Emphasis mine]
And, once again, here I am finding myself debating what’s the point of having and maintaining a blog if you cannot keep the comments open and available to everyone who may want to share their ¢2. Rather frustrating altogether. Then you remember the beautifully crafted articles like David Weinberger’s “What blogging was” or Tim Kastelle’s “You Should Start a Blog Right Now“ and you realise that you just need to build on further on your patience levels and wait for the attack to go by to then turn comments back on and you will be fine. Back in business.
Well, that’s essentially what I will be doing. I will keep hanging in there and see if the spam comments attack will eventually go away so that I can get back on track. After all, blogging is still lots of good fun! And I miss it. Terribly. So I suppose I will just keep blogging away from here onwards imagining the wonderful conversations I could have had with you folks, but that they may need to wait for a little bit longer. So, please bear with me while we get over this spam storm. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before we get back to normal …
Interestingly enough, and moving on into another topic that I would want to briefly touch base on, somewhat related, but perhaps worth of a separate blog post on its own to dig in further on it, a few of you commented, when I mentioned this issue through Twitter, and other social networking tools, that I should perhaps outsource the commenting system rather into Disqus or even Google Plus and move on forward with things.
That certainly was a very interesting suggestion that I have been contemplating as well for a good while, even before this spam comment attack and all along I haven’t been convinced it would be the best option out there. In fact, it raises a number of different questions and concerns with yours truly in terms of where you host your (long term) content. Allow me to explain it perhaps with a metaphor I have been working my way through over the course of time, that I originally crafted for discerning the differences of publishing content in your blog versus elsewhere, i.e. other social networking tools.
Imagine your blog is your home. That special space that you keep coming back to over and over again, because, you know, it’s your own online space on the Social Web. The place where you belong, where your thoughts are entertained in ways you couldn’t possibly even imagine by sharing them freely and openly with others, so that, over time, conversations develop, open knowledge sharing goes back and forth and trust builds up naturally, as folks have got an opportunity to visit your home, feel comfortable, learn about you and what you are passionate about and develop a relationship over the course of time through multiple interactions and overall good old participation in the back and forth dialogue.
Now, imagine you decide to go to someone else’s home and live there permanently. Like LinkedIn (with its recently open-to-everyone publishing platform), Medium (Blogging for the 9%), Tumblr, Google Plus, Blogger, WordPress.com, amongst several other options. How would you feel if, at one point, you are no longer welcome at their homes, or, even worse, how would you feel if those homes just disappear overnight without an opportunity for you to leave the party on time (with your content) to event share it elsewhere with others? I guess you know where I am heading, right?
John Battelle described it beautifully in a recent LinkedIn article under the rather suggestive and thought provoking heading of “LinkedIn Is Now a Publishing Platform. Awesome. But First, Get Your Own Site”, where he confirms with this brilliant quote why I am myself not ready just yet to outsource my home for someone else’s:
“From now on I’m going on record as a passionate advocate of posting to your own site first, then posting to LinkedIn (or any other place, such as Medium).
Why? Well, it comes down to owning your own domain. Building out a professional profile on LinkedIn certainly makes sense, and bolstering that cv with intelligent pieces of writing is also a great idea. But if you’re going to take the time to create content, you should also take the time to create a home for that content that is yours and yours alone. WordPress makes it drop dead easy to start a site. Take my advice, and go do it. Given the trendlines of digital publishing, where more and more large platforms are profiting from, and controlling, the works of individuals, I can’t stress enough: Put your taproot in the independent web.“
And that’s essentially what I will be doing from here onwards. Focus plenty more on building a beautiful home that everyone else out there on the (Social) Web can enjoy, if they so wish to drop by and pay a visit, and where I can help facilitate the space without hijacking the conversation just for the sake of thriving on attention. I don’t need it. At least, I don’t think I need it. What I do need though, for sure, is for the conversation to take place, openly, publicly, and available to others, because that’s how we, you and me, can keep up with our ongoing, constant learning paths.
For now, though, and while we wait for the spam comment attack to fade away, I guess this blog is under construction, currently being refurbished, if you wish, just like any home out there would do every so often, while we wait to turn on the comments once again. And bring back the conversation to life.
I just can’t wait for that to happen!
[Thanks ever so much everyone for the continued patience while enduring this painful experience and for all of the wonderful support offered thus far. It’s greatly appreciated. As always]
Written by Luis Suarez
Chief Emergineer, People Enabler and Charter Member of Change Agents Worldwide and a well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business, and has been living, since February 2008, a (work) life without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He can also be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua, Google Plus or LinkedIn.
One of the things that I have always enjoyed, and quite a bit, from the Social Web, and the different social networking tools out there, and the main reason why I keep coming back for more, is that no matter how much time may have just gone by, the good content, the golden gems, those pieces of reflection and insight that you know you are going to bump into over time they keep resurfacing time and time again, making the mere presence on social networking tools just worth it on its own. Earlier on this week, I had the opportunity to experience it once more, by bumping into “The Mindset of a Winner“. Perhaps one of the best short video clips you will be bumping into this year on the topic of focusing and pursuing your passion(s) through multiple dips.
It’s pretty remarkable that the video clip is a short interview published on January 2008, conducted by Gerhard Gschwandtner from Selling Power, of Seth Godin and how five and a half years later it’s just as fresh, insightful and relevant as ever. In it, Seth, once again, is at his best talking about a whole bunch of different subjects, starting off with spending a few minutes on what I feel is one of the main issues at all levels we have got to deal with in today’s (business) world: mediocrity.
While the interview may have that connotation of just being relevant for sellers, as that’s the primary audience, I can tell you that it’s very much worth while going through it as plenty of Seth’s relevant insights would apply to everyone out there who wants to escape mediocrity on everything they do, whether at work or in their personal lives, with stunning reflections like this one: “The big win is when you refuse to settle for average or mediocre. […] What you do as a sales person is you communicate emotion. But you can’t communicate emotion and trust to someone if they are not listening and the only people who are going to listen to you are the people who are pre-sold on you, because someone told them about what you do and how you do it.” Just brilliant, don’t you think? Specially, how it applies to not just everyone out there, but to everything else that we do as well for that matter.
From there onwards, it just gets better. Seth then gets to talk about focusing on what you are good at and forget about all of the different distractions that may well be out there enticing you to go into multiple directions making you lose focus of what you should be working on. He uses the example of his blog, which is just a part of himself, as his own voice out there on the Web. That is, his presence, his digital footprint and personal brand for that matter, in contrast to his light involvement on the various social networking spaces out there. His follow-up insights on experiencing multiple dips to keep moving forward is just rather inspirational on its own. If not, judge for yourselves playing the video clip below:
The interesting thing, for me, while going through the interview itself, is how it reminded me of a superb blog post by the always inspiring Valeria Maltoni under the rather thought provoking title of “Why on Earth Would You Still Bother with Blogging?” where you would find incredibly insightful quotes like this one:
“Providing a frame of reference, composing thoughts in an open forum like a blog, publishing a point of view, are more than merely a way to develop a personal channel for getting the word out on what matters in your world.
Stand for something and work on backing it up over time“
that she then develops further under “Why bother with all the blogs” with perhaps one of the most descriptive, helpful and reflective reasons as to why blogging still matters. To quote:
“They are an opportunity to shape a conversation about topics that matter right now — whatever we call this moment, whether the age of conversation, or real time something, or collaboration, the path to useful is a path to usefulness.
Sticking with topics also allows you to explore ideas and develop new thinking. In most cases it goes beyond that. A blog helps you keep track of what you said about how something would develop. And that is incredibly useful to understand how you got to where you are today”
So perhaps that’s what blogging is after all. An opportunity to experience plenty of dips on multiple topics of interest that you can reflect upon at your own leisure, so that, over time, while you develop your own blogging voice and style, and you keep building on your own digital footprint, you get to understand what your focus area(s) may well be, find those strengths that keep you moving along, and stick around with them, so that at some point in time they become you, you become them, without having to fall back into that world of mediocrity that’s just destroying everything we have ever believed in and built over time.
Yes, I, too, “refuse to settle for average or mediocre”. And that’s probably one of the main reasons as well why I keep blogging on a regular basis, i.e. to reflect on these golden gems that one keeps bumping into, but also as an opportunity to share, out there in the open, what my passion(s) are and what drives me to work day in day out. Why? Well, because, amongst several other things, the alternative, that mediocrity, is just too ugly to bear.
Yes, indeed, I refuse to settle for average or mediocre. And you?
Earlier on this month, my good friend, Euan Semple wrote a short blog post on the topic of how tough it is to put together that initial first blog entry, if you are new to blogging, and even more so if you are an executive. It’s just like the whole world is watching you for that first article and you just want to do things right. You certainly don’t want to look like a fool, never mind that feeling of being ridiculed by your peers if things don’t work out. You just can’t afford to go through that and that’s where most of your reluctance to blogging comes from nowadays. You know how it goes, the longer you leave it, the stronger the pressure on you and when you, finally, decide to get things started with your own blogging you realise it’s not going to be as easy as you thought it would have been, but will it be worth it? Well, for the sake of bravery, authenticity, honesty and openness, yes, it surely will. Even for you as a CEO.
Blogging is coming back, in case you may not have noticed. Even for senior executives it’s becoming one of the most empowering opportunities to engage in an open, direct dialogue with your audience(s) about whatever the subject matter you may decide to write about. The thing is nowadays most executives feel like blogging is something that their communications & PR teams should be doing for them. After all, it’s just another publishing platform, right? Well, that may well not be the case, perhaps. Euan defined it as a “slippery slope” and I couldn’t have agreed more with him. To quote: “First they help you, then they start to write the posts for you, then you get busy or bored, and the next thing you know it is not your blog but someone else’s“.
That’s probably one of the best descriptions of why I have never believed in ghost writing myself either over the course of the last 10 years that I have been blogging already. It just doesn’t work. And that’s probably one of the main reasons as to why blogging is so tough. It requires lots of energy, hard work and good effort to make it happen and for that you may need more time than just posting a tweet, or a short message on LinkedIn, Google Plus or whatever the other social networking tool. And we all know how tough it is nowadays to make time for your social interactions, even for blogging, in between your ever increasing workloads, right? Where is the balance then?
The balance is on trying to figure out whether you really need a blog or not for yourself. Remember, blogging still is the most powerful key element on the Social Web out there to help you build, sustain, nurture and develop your own personal (digital) brand. So should you, as a CEO, or a senior executive, for that matter, start blogging? Most probably.
The good thing is that those folks who may decide to jump into the blogging bandwagon do have it relatively easy in terms of the huge amount of resources, helpful how-to articles, pragmatic blog posts, lessons learned, hints and tips, productivity hacks, numerous user guides on blogging that surely help address the potential technological barriers, even for guest blogging. Even more so The Next Web has put together a stunning article where they have detailed “The 15 Best Blogging and Publishing Platforms on the Internet Today. […]“.
So there are plenty of choices and helpful support / resources out there, no doubt. Why is it so tough to get things going with your own blog then? Well, I think Euan pretty much nails it with this particular quote which pretty much summarises some really good and practical advice:
“Be brave, say what you really think, say it in your own words. And I mean your own words – the way you would talk to a friend. Not falsely informal nor nervously official. Your real voice, the real you. Surprisingly this is what makes it so damn hard. We are often not usually our real selves at work. Often we have forgotten how to speak normally! It feels raw, you feel vulnerable, it an’t natural. But it is. It is the most natural and effective way to truly communicate with someone. To make a real connection. If you can remember how to do it, and write like you mean it, then things can only get easier and real magic starts to happen.” [Emphasis mine]
Indeed, at the end of the day, it’s all about a couple of things, really. It’s about whether you, as the blogger, may be able to find both your own blogging voice and your own blogging style, no matter how high you may well be in the organisation. And stick around with both of them. Being afraid or fearful about what others, including your peers!, may say about your own blogging style / voice is not going to help much. In fact, it will manage to keep you in your cave for a good while, so that you, too, can conform with their own inability to leap forward and get their own blogging going. That’s where Euan’s commentary on bravery is so accurate. We just need to be braver out there and share more of what we know and what we are good at and what we would be able to keep writing on and on and on for years as if it were still the first blog post.
Yes, absolutely!, blogging, eventually, is all about sharing your passion about that subject matter. About making it contagious for others. About being open, transparent, trustworthy enough to comfortably share your thoughts out there in the open, understanding that they may be incomplete, imperfect, awkward, at times, perhaps, but they are still your thoughts, your passion, your blogging voice and style coming together. Now, I am pretty sure we don’t have an issue with finding our passion, do we? I think we all know pretty well what it is that drives us not just at work, but also in our personal lives.
I think we all know how we can, once again, become more authentic, transparent, honest, open, engaged, more our selves, really, on the Social Web out there while we interact with others. We just need to bring it back and don’t take ourselves too seriously. Let’s not forget the play factor, please. Will your peers continue to make fun of you and ridicule you? Most probably, since that’s how they would want to keep hiding themselves and fight their own uncomfortable circumstances by deviating the attention elsewhere. Should you care about it? Definitely not. Remember, after all, you have got a passion hidden inside wanting to burst out and be shared with the rest of the world. Yes, that’s the moment you know you are now ready to start your own blog.
Yes, we know, we have been waiting for you all along. Don’t worry, the waters are lovely.
Welcome to the Internet Blogosphere!