Is blogging a good use of time?

Tony Karrer has been prompted by a couple of posts to consider whether use of web 2.0 technologies is viewed as wasting time by others. He asks:

Do people have enough time to use these tools? If so, does that mean that they are somehow not the people who are already "too busy" at their jobs? Are the only people who will use the tools exactly those people who the organization views as time wasters, tinkering about, etc.

Although he’s talking about web 2.o technologies, I’ll narrow it down to just blogging for some consideration. I have some sympathy with the people who think it is only for those with too much time on their hands, because I used to think the same.  Something along the lines of ‘oh yes, it’s fine for them to spend their whole day blogging, but I’m actually busy writing a course.’ And I do still wonder how some people who have ten posts a day find time to do anything else. But of course I’ve come round in my thinking, even if I’m not the most prolific blogger on Technorati.

So, if you do think blogging is a waste of time, or you don’t have enough time, let me try and convince you otherwise. Firstly, you should be prepared to put in some initial bootstrapping effort. Your blog won’t be widely read overnight (if ever), and the paybacks I’m about to list need some critical mass of postings I think. It helps if you’ve got a project to specifically link to so you have some momentum behind it. For instance I was writing my VLE book when I started mine so I had lots of stuff in my head to get out.  There are lots of benefits in terms of reputation, marketing yourself, indirect payment (e.g. through consultancy) etc, but here I’m just going to concentrate on the ones relating to time.

i) You can direct people to your blog and save having to produce reports or documents. I often get in to conversations with people and they ask me to summarise things in an email and I simply send them to my blog, maybe with a specific tag e.g. ‘look at the stuff I’ve written under the VLE tag’. It is probably still some way off, but in the future I would like to think that instead of producing a CV and letter of application for a job you could just send someone to your blog. That should give them a much better indication of whether they want to employ you.

ii) When you get in the habit it speeds up the process of recording your thoughts on events. I often sit in conferences or workshops thinking about the blog posting I will do (or sometimes actually doing it). This saves me having to write up notes afterwards and also helps me focus on what is important.

iii) It provides an easy dissemination point. For example I usually  put up my powerpoint on Slideshare and link it in my blog. A lot of people know this, so if they have missed a talk or want the slides from a talk they don’t bother emailing me, they simply go to the blog.

iv) For the organisation it provides a knowledge transfer route. Now I’m not suggesting we do away with all workshops (biscuit suppliers need not fear for their trade), but an organisation that has a good set of regular bloggers has an efficient means of knowledge sharing which might be time consuming to realise in other ways.

So that’s my reasons for how it repays the time spent on it, and that’s not considering all the other benefits. I’m off to read my blog roll now…

5 Comments

  1. In addition, I also tell people about the immense network of colleagues and experts it can help you build, which can have immediate benefits for an organization. Many has been the time when I have struck a brick wall in working on a problem and have turned to my network for help, either through email directly to people I know might have the answer or through my blog itself looking for the wisdom of the crowd. If you accept the premise that change, knowledge (and complexity) are accelerating, then it seems almost professionally neglectful not to be establishing a wide and deep network to help deal with it.

  2. I read with interest your enthusiastic endorsement regarding blogging but as an employee it threw us some interesting challenges. I was told I had to start a blog when working on an internal vle project and despite several entries found that very few visited it. Now, hand on heart, it might well have been the boring way I blogged and you might be able to give some valuable lessons on how to do it successfully! Lots of people said to me they just didn’t have time to check out blogs, e-mails, online discussion entries, forums, feed readers, and all the other umpteen places there are to try and keep up to date with all this C21st info dissemination.
    The other key aspect to this is information management itself. Don’t you think there is a growing tension here between a freer choice of external tools by individuals will result in fragementation and potential mis management of content? Who owns content anymore? Do you think this is an issue that might hamper the creative use of blogging to support good educative practice and relfective sharing?

  3. Hi Non,
    Lots of points you raise here. On your own experience, I think there is an art to blogging, and as I said it took me three attempts to find a voice I felt comfortable with, so maybe it is a case of keeping at it. Having said that, I certainly don’t think blogging is for everyone (in the same way that writing academic papers isn’t for everyone either).
    Re. keeping up, I think this is a lot easier with simple subscription tools now. I use variously netvibes, Google reader, and even the Google desktop which automatically adds RSS sites in. There is also an attitude issue here – if I was to say ‘I’ve spent all morning reading blogs’, some people might think ‘waster’, whereas if I say ‘I’ve spent all morning in the library reading journal articles’ people will think ‘ah, good solid academic’.
    I’m not with you on the growing choice being a bad thing. I think it changes the dynamic between educators and students since they now have access to a wide range of voices, often including the leading experts. No-one really owns content any more, that’s what we have to address as educators.

  4. On the Learning Circuits Blog a few months back, we did a question of whether learning professionals should blog. You might want to take a look at that:
    Should All Learning Professionals Blog?
    http://learningcircuits.blogspot.com/2006/10/big-question-for-october-should-all_04.html
    as well as my summary of what folks said:
    Top Ten Reasons to Blog or Not to Blog
    http://elearningtech.blogspot.com/2006/10/top-ten-reasons-to-blog-and-top-ten.html
    Since that time, I’ve become a much stronger proponent that anyone who really wants to support their own personal learning should be blogging.

  5. More Than 10 Ways You Can Waste Time Blogging

    My friend Easton Ellsworth posted a neat article yesterdayWhen Is Blogging A Waste of Time? 10 Nasty Examples.
    When you publish a blog post that provides little or no value to your target audience.
    When your blog has no clear target audience….

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