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K. Brian Kelley - Databases, Infrastructure, and Security

IT Security, MySQL, Perl, SQL Server, and Windows technologies.

So you want to write a blog?

First, figure out what you want to write about. It should be something you have passion for. And it should be something where you don't really care if people read it or not. At least that's my philosophy. I write because I love to write. Thankfully, some people see some value in some of the things I write and they enjoy it. That's great. But in all honesty I write because I want to write.

Now that you've passed that litmus test, make sure you understand what plagiarism is. Otherwise, especially in a small community like the SQL Server one, you're going to get noticed, and not in a good way. Saying, "I didn't know," or "I'm new at this," or "I'm a young guy," isn't going to cut it. It's often said that "Ignorance is no excuse," when it comes to breaking the law. That applies to plagiarism, too.

I've often heard it said that good writing is preceded by reading good writing. I have found that to be very true. It's one of the reasons I'm taking the time to go back and read the books we call literature that I avoided like the plague in school. If only I knew then what I know now. Well, now you know. So look to read good writing. If you're talking about blogs, the Professional Association for SQL Server web site has a blog directory for SQL Server related blogs. Peruse the list, find your favorites who post regularly. Read. Always read. Even after you start writing, actually, especially after you start writing, continue to read. Sometimes another person's blog post will spur an idea for one of your own. Just make sure you avoid plagiarizing.

All right, you understand what plagiarism is, you've got your reading habit on... what next? Learn to blog the right way. Or at least, in an efficient way. I'm not a good one to give advice on this subject. So I'm going to redirect you elsewhere, like Brent Ozar. He has excellent advice. Some of it I follow, and some of it I don't. Most of the ones I don't isn't because Brent is wrong, but because I have some bad habits to work on, like posting on a Saturday and sticking with the temptation to let it roll then, instead of scheduling it for Monday.

Now that you know how to set up a blog and some rules with respect to blogging, here's some other advice I'll offer.

  • Find your voice. That's who you are. How you talk and write. You need to be you. If you aren't, people are going to pick up on that. I'm wordy. I'm nerdy. But that's who I am as a person. Because I'm genuine, I think that's why folks can tolerate my writing. If you're witty, use it. If you're a good explainer, look to explain. If you're straight-forward and blunt, then be so. But be yourself.
  • Be respectful. You don't want to insult your blog readers. You don't want to alienate audience. You will, the longer you write. People are going to take exception to what you say. But the catch is you don't want to kill your audience because your language is abusive, insulting, or degrading. I'm not saying to be politically correct here. But treat folks nicely. Now, if your voice is abusive, insulting, or degrading, stop right here, fix that about yourself, and then consider blogging again. We don't need another Andrew Dice Clay. And how long was his run in the spotlight? Who would you rather be? Him, or Robin Williams?
  • Be passionate. I said this earlier, but it bears repeating. If you don't care about your writing and what you're writing about, no one else will either. If you are passionate, even about obscure subjects, you'll likely find some readers. No, you won't be able to retire on your blog, but that's not why you're writing, right?
  • Be realistic. I used to kill myself trying to write blog posts, devotionals, articles, and the like. The first two I've learned to write when I can. I don't stress over it. And as a result, I actually end up being more consistent. But if you can't blog every day, then don't. Don't have that as your goal. It's not mine. Mine is 3x a week. Not necessarily Monday/Wednesday/Friday, but just 3 decent sized posts. If I go over, great! If not, that's fine, too.
  • "Just Do It!" Yeah, the Nike classic advertising slogan (i's now over 20 years old). But you can say, "Well, I'm going to," and there never will be a blog. So just dive in and get to it.

 

Comments

Posted by Gethyn Ellis on 27 March 2010

Nice post Brian. I'm relatively new to the sql blog sphere, I started blogging properly in the last six months or so, along with Brent's post above I found Steve Jones' "Building a Better Blog" (http://24hours.sqlpass.org/) session on the 24 hours of pass a great resource too.

Posted by Glenn Berry on 27 March 2010

Good advice. I have found one of the harder things is to keep blogging on a regular basis over an extended period of time without running out of ideas or motivation.

Posted by K. Brian Kelley on 27 March 2010

Gethyn, agreed, Steve's presentation is a great one, too.

Posted by K. Brian Kelley on 27 March 2010

Glenn, I know some folks basically keep a running notebook. Every time they come across something interesting or see something in the forums, they make a note of it. Unfortunately, I'm not that organized - yet. It's one of the things I'm working on among my personal goals.

Posted by Seth Phelabaum on 29 March 2010

I've found that my blog focus is slowly changing or evolving over the first few months of doing it.  I think I'm getting into more of a comfort zone now, but it's definitely broadening a bit to include things I hadn't originally planned on.

I'm working on the notebook thing currently as well.

Posted by bobby.dimmick on 29 March 2010

I've been promising the build a blog -- as Brian well knows -- for almost a year now.  A handful of things makes me hesitate:

1. Finding time to set it up/sheer laziness

  This is always the biggest one.  I keep promising to set-aside a weekend, but then something comes up around the house, or there's a birthday party, etc..

2. The Name

  Oddly enough, this is both the simplest and one of the largest roadblocks for me.  I love to read and write.  I realize that once I set foot out there I will have established myself and making changes like L&F or name can be rather disruptive.

3. Jack of all Trades, master of none

  I'm a developer, and architect, and base-level db guy, and business analyst, and all-around hoopy frood.  One of the things that I've read (maybe from Brent?) was that you need focus just as much as you need voice.  But I'm passionate about all of these things.

4. Blogging?  Really?  Do people still do that?

  I personally find a lot of value in technical weblogs.  As other social outlets have been gaining in popularity (Twitter, etc.) I have noticed a considerable decrease in the number of weblog posts that I've seen out there.  Sometimes I'm lucky and a decent thread of tweets turns into a blog post -- but not often.  I wonder if I might be too late to jump on the bandwagon.  I know too many companies/individuals who use weblogs solely as a modern-day infomercial.

Thoughts?  As for organizing, I've always carried a pen and some form of paper with me.  That's a double-edged sword, though.  I'll post more about that when my weblog is up! :)

Posted by Jason Brimhall on 29 March 2010

Nice Post Brian.  Those are the same articles I researched prior to starting my blog.

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