Some Reflections On Blogging


As I took  time off in December, 2011 (which probably would not have happened if I did not have an enlightening set of conversations with Dennis Howlett)  – I had an opportunity to reflect on a lot of stuff.  And one of it was on my blogging.

 

I am a sucker for numbers ( Pls don’t hold it against me – I do BI work for a living) and I started by analyzing the stats in wordpress. I started this blog in 2009 December (I think I started an SDN blog a year or two before) , and a whole 104 people read it that month.  In December 2010, I had 3423  hits and in December 2011 I had 2740  hits.  I chose December to compare because it is the slowest month with a lot of people spending a few hours each day away from their computers and mobile devices when they are awake.  I wrote about 50 posts in 2011 – which correlates nicely to the number of weeks I had to fly (I write most posts during the plane rides). The numbers satisfied me ( apparently, I am not very hard to please) on quantitative front, so I thought I should check the quality too. And I did not come away happy this time ( ok so maybe I am a wee little hard to please).

 

As I read through what I wrote over the last year, it became pretty clear that at least 20% of the blogs were lousy. That is time I will never see again, and neither will the folks who read those rants.  Another 20% does not look balanced to me any more. And in the remaining 60%, I felt comfortable that I offered something useful.

 

At this point, all kinds of “consultant like” thoughts started forming in my mind. I narrowed down from a fairly large list to the following causes

 

1. English is not my first language.  Although I had to learn English at school in India, and have been living outside India for a dozen years – I constantly feel it is very difficult for people to understand what I am trying to say.

2. I don’t have enough experience blogging. I started late compared to most people, and probably have not developed a style that works yet.

3. I don’t think through all aspects of an issue before expressing my opinion on my blog.  I do this because I am not very patient, and also because I fear my blog will look like a white paper if I over think it. Forget readers, I will just have to kick myself if I read such a blog.

4.  I don’t have enough breadth of knowledge. My primary topic has been Enterprise Software, with a specific focus on SAP. I have done a little bit of other things too but not as much as I have done SAP. So there is a good chance that I am not making valid points in several cases where I express my opinion.

5. I am making opinions based on experience with large enterprises alone. For some reason, in all my jobs so far – I have had to deal with really big companies.  While that is useful, I do not have a good grasp of the smaller companies directly. What I know about the smaller companies is second hand information I have gathered while doing project reviews, few sales proposals etc. I have not “lived” the life in the SME space.  So when I make generic statements, essentially I am not generalizing enough due to my large enterprise bias.

 

So my plan for 2012 is to do the following

1. Try to avoid blogging on impulse whenever I can. I got some valuable input from Jon Reed on this – so I am not going to totally avoid the impulses, but will give my posts a little more thought than I have so far. ( Err..Excluding this one post I am writing – allow me to slack this one time)

2. Spend some more time reading and commenting on other blogs. I did read a lot last year, but probably did not comment as much and contribute to the conversation

3. Try other media to express my opinions other than the long form blog posts

4. Gain some exposure on parts of Enterprise Software that I am not familiar with . And I will try hard to hide my lack of interest in gamification and social blah blah till it works at some customer I know of.

5.  Gain some exposure to customer segments I have not focused on so far, and continue to “live” with customers.

6. Learn from eminent analysts and bloggers and develop my style as much as I can.

 

I know me better than you know me (I think) ! So I am fairly sure I will not succeed all of these 🙂  So lets see how it works out for me.

 

Happy New Year ! and Happy Blogging !

 

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19 thoughts on “Some Reflections On Blogging

  1. Don’t worry about English not being your first language, your writing fine.
    As for 2012 plans:
    – don’t completely stop being impulsive. Sometimes my better ones come from something that just happened. On the other hand, I also sometimes leave an idea for several weeks to let my thoughts develop
    – thanks to Google Reader I can review a lot of blogs very quickly
    – for quick comments Twitter is best for me; if I think more is required then I use Google+
    – interesting comment about learning more about enterprise software; it helps if you sell or implement, and if you’ve had experience with more than one vendor solution
    – IMO gamification is very early days; depending on the type of customers you have, exposing to social may take a while – in the space I operate in, I reckon it will be a while
    – I’ve learnt a lot by reading the major enterprise software bloggers

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  2. Just seen this so…late to the party as is often the case. Don’t flog yourself on this Vijay – you know as well as I that some topics smack us between the eyes as counterintuitive to our experience. And that’s OK. Your experience is for you to share as you see best. I make clear that I hold positions – I’m not trying to be wholly unbiased. Goddamit but I have an opinion and if I think it is correct and can back it up then I will say so. But then I would be the poorer for not having your insights and experience to either shore up or demolish.

    Above everything though what shines through here is your humility. You know you don’t know it all. Hold that thought – it makes a world of a difference to the quality of what you bring to the table.

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  3. Vijay

    I have only been following you for a few months, but have dug back into the archives. As with the other commenters, I find your content to be sharp, technically astute and well-written. My opinion – as a very neophyte blogger – would be that your unique viewpoint and experiences have to inform your blogging and have value. Don’t try to do a white paper, that’s for your clients. Don’t worry about the impulse-driven blogs, either. If reflection and time persuade you that the first impulse was wrong, blog again to add clarity or say — oops, I might have messed that one up.

    Charge on bravely!

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  4. Vijay, I think the other commenters covered it well here, so not much more to add. I enjoyed our talk on blogging. So much of it is about claiming your own style and then throwing yourself into a mad pursuit of excellence. You’re one of the few bloggers in the top of my RSS reader so you’re either doing something right or something very wrong. 🙂

    Clearly you should largely stick with what you do best, but I do think that content experiments can be valuable as well. You can throw out the rules except to keep things fresh for you – if you feel fresh in what you do, so will your readers. One thing I do believe is that it is sometimes better to add a comment to someone else’s worthwhile blog post than to simply crank something on our own. That’s a trap you tend to avoid because you’re not obsessed with page views like those who I see posting “light” blogs that would really have been better as tweets. 🙂

    Another way to look at it: your blogs may be impulsively written but by the time you write them, you have soaked up plenty of relevant context from customer experience, social arguments, etc. So in a way they are already steeped by the time they go up, even if they go up in a quick burst….

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  5. I don’t think theres any blogger out there that isn’t entirely happy with the first cut/ first year so your tracking extremely well well -)

    if it helps any, you and i share a common trait and relatively speaking, a lens into the workings of the enterprise thats in shorter supply. Neither of us our analysts (we analyse but were not Analysts, per se) but work in the trenches on strategy and execution with large orgs. Whilst analysts bring a wide lens across the vendor and customer landscape thats absolutely needed, you baseline your analysis on what really really makes a customer tick. An accidental ‘benefit’ of spending 4-7 days a week at a customer site.

    Use that as a filter when you decide what to write about and how to provide insight and you’ll always bring a different perspective. Doesn’t matter if its an impulse reaction or a long form post. Works for me and theres no reason it wont work for you.

    And on the English as a first language issue, dont sweat it. Good analysis is always in short supply and even if it is an issue, the people that matter will look past it in exchange for good insight.

    Finally, as I told you earlier, page views and even number of visitors to some degree doesn’t matter in the B2B world. If you get every Fortune 500 or 1000 org to read your stuff, those 500 or 1000 visitors are far more valuable than a gazillion drive-bys.

    Keep at it!

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    • Thanks for your perspective, Sameer – much appreciated. Working directly with customers for a living, I agree – we probably have a different viewpoint in our blogs. Fully agreed on pageviews – it is not a good indicator by itself. In anycase, I don’t do any SEO or anything.

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  6. I always think it is a good idea to reflect occasionally on everything in life as there is some value in looking back as well as forward.

    I personally really enjoy the impulse blogs as they are smart, timely and often help push the conversation on important topics for SAP. There is always the risk that looking back as you gain more knowledge your view may change though that could be the case on any blog you write and people understand that. Some of my more popular blogs have been rants that I pulled together on a plane ride and in many cases the comment section was better than the blog itself but I was still proud of the fact I got the discussion started.

    I have written 50+ blogs and my “style” is still evolving and I bet even if you asked Dennis Howlett he is still tweaking his. I personally like your style and in a blog earlier this year said “Vijay is a SAP Mentor and has very effective style of writing articles often from the angle of asking difficult, open ended or challenging questions” Your blogs are very easy to read and consume which is something we should all strive more to do.

    I personally fall somewhere in between…..on my blogs where I am publicly challenging SAP on areas where I am not an expert (ie Mobility/Workday) I spent extra time to really do a deep dive as knew there might be some controversy. It was a win/win for me as it only further cement by views and I came out a lot smarter (which happens with many of my blogs) 🙂

    You have a loyal following and continuing to tweak is a good thing but I will speak for hoping you continue doing what you have been doing.

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  7. Vijay, you are one of the more insightful bloggers in the SAP community today, and I enjoy reading your blogs whether they are well thought out and planned, or just done on impulse.

    In fact, although I get a lot from the structured blogs, I tend to think impulsive blogs are best. That’s when we gain insight into your instincts, rather than research, and your instincts, based on experience, are what make you a thought leader in the first place.

    Let’s face it, you’re often working on, and commenting on, technology on the bleeding edge. Sometimes we see in hindsight that we got our initial comments wrong as we didn’t have the full story sufficient to make a decision that customers could take to the bank. But this is not advice for customers that are spending money on you, this is where conversations start. And if the conversations don’t get started by someone like you, then they’ll go on without you, and potentially be worse off for it!

    So keep on speaking when you simply feel the urge. Keep on instigating and agitating. You make us all better when you do.

    Cheers,
    David.

    PS, your language is at least as good as most of us native English-speakers, and I, for one, have never had difficulty in understanding you. If others do, it’s perhaps for other reasons than language (eg: lack of understanding of the subject matter at hand). I wish I were as proficient in a second language as you are in English!

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  8. My response to your “consultant-like” thoughts:

    1) “English is not my first language”: Has anyone actually told you that they find it very difficult to comprehend what you’re writing? I would not assume or infer that English being a second language has got anything to do with the clarity as well as the credibility of your blog.

    2) “I don’t have enough experience blogging”: You wrote 50 posts in 2011. I would not say that you don’t have experience as a blogger. I would even challenge the assumption that experience is a pre-requisite to be a good blogger.

    3) ” I don’t think through all aspects of an issue before expressing my opinion on my blog.”: May be, but then as you said, it’s up to you to decide. I believe as long as you have thoughts that are good enough to form and defend your POV and as long as you’re open to listening and learning from others, you are good to go. An intent to write a post is not necessarily about demonstrating the full knowledge about a topic but it is also about challenging certain things, asking questions, and informing readers.

    4) “I don’t have enough breadth of knowledge.”: Not true. You know a lot more than most folks that I know in the areas that you are an expert in. Remember, you want to be a T-shaped person. Be a killer expert in your primary domain and gain knowledge across other domains. What can be a better medium other than a blog to do that?

    5) “I am making opinions based on experience with large enterprises alone.”: You should qualify that. Extrapolating assumptions to SME is fine as long as you know that they are assumptions and you’re willing to learn (which you are). Blogging about LE alone is not a bad idea either.

    My response to your plan:

    1) “Try to avoid blogging on impulse whenever I can.”: I second that. You’re not a kind of blogger who breaks news in realtime. I use a draft folder. At any given time, I have at least 35-40 unpublished blog posts. What sounded like a great post may not sound as great a few days later.

    2) “Spend some more time reading and commenting on other blogs.”: “Yes” on reading and “may be” on commenting. Sometimes people ask me how I get time to write blog posts. I’m sure people must be asking you, as well. My response is that blogging involves 85% of reading and synthesizing and 15% of writing. Commenting is a good idea but do that only if you can ensure that it doesn’t take away time from blogging.

    3) “Try other media to express my opinions other than the long form blog posts”: Good idea. I believe that blog is only one social media channel. I also use Quora and of course Twitter.

    4) “I will try hard to hide my lack of interest in gamification”: What? You think gamification isn’t cool? 🙂

    5) “Gain some exposure to customer segments”: Yes, always a good idea. Also, consider some of these customers write a guest blog post for you.

    6) “Learn from eminent analysts and bloggers and develop my style”: I hope these are two different goals. Learn all you can from all the people, but your style is your style.

    I would add a couple of things:

    7) Tell a story: People love to listen to real stories. You have such great exposure to customers, their daily lives, and their problems. Tell us a story. Abstract discussions do get boring, but if they are contextualized in a story people love to read them. I really liked your post regarding how your team made HANA work in a short period of time – the challenges that you faced and how you solved them.

    8) Pursue a goal larger than the life: You really need to figure out why you are blogging. I believe the pageviews is a very narrow metrics. If it’s all about pageview then you need to re-think topics, platform, SEO, syndication etc. I hope you pursue a much bigger goal. You’re a thought leader and you’re in unique in many ways. You need to ask yourself: “What can I write that others can’t and why should people read my blog?”

    All the best! We will continue reading.

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    • Can’t thank you enough for the great comments and tips, Chirag.

      I do love to read blogs that have a story – I will try to do more of that. Too bad on gamification – I am not yet a fan. Probably because I have not seen it work to my satisfaction in EnSW. But will keep an eye open for that.

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  9. My advice would be to keep it up if it makes you happy, and if it makes you happy mke people happy, you should know that I very much enjoy your blogs (although I will admit to skimming them when the subject matter is way outside of my wheelhouse).

    I don’t see much of a language barrier once you realize the writer is a non-native speaker. Things roll off the tongue a little differently, but generally speaking it is much easier to understand it being read than being spoken (although I have no problem with our accent).

    Feel free to be more thoughtful, but I for one appreciate the informal tone. Of course, I’m a painfully lazy writer who doesn’t completely wrap my head around a subject before firing it off, so you may not want to listen to me.

    In any event, thanks, and keep it up.

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  10. Good points, except the impulse one. I think you have a knack for controversies and that comes from blogging out of impulse. You lose it, run a risk of being boring:-). Keep blogging, I am a fan.
    KK

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