A blog is your brain, over time
on the internet

Fridge magnets spelling out the word Reflect

Blogs are a bit old-fashioned these days, certainly as a way of expressing personal identity on the web. Personal sharing has moved to social networks, and I don’t think any amount of nostalgic yearning for the days when blogs were cool is going to change that.

But I do think that blogs still have something to offer - to some people, yes, but particularly to organisations (be they companies, charities, governments, or anything else).

A blog provides something that posting on social networks has never been able to match: a searchable, linkable archive of thoughts over time. A blog is a terrific way what you’re thinking and how those thoughts change.

Blog posts do two jobs

A blog is a collection of posts, the most recent at the top. Each post exists as two things simultaneously:

  1. as part of your chronological narrative, a chapter in the ongoing story of what your organisation thinks; and
  2. as a thought in its own right, explaining one thing or one idea

Someone reading through your blog from beginning to end (or from end to beginning) will see the evidence of number 1 unfolding as they read. They will see your thinking changing, as it changes.

But seriously, who reads blog archives like that? Nobody.

It’s far more likely that a handful of your best posts will be more popular. They’ll get shared around social networks, and people will follow those shared links to read just those words, on those popular posts. They’re unlikely to explore further. Most likely, they’ll close that tab and move on. Like we all do.

Your blog is your history

Posts on a blog just like pages anywhere else on the web. A blog is hypertext, as hypertext used to be (and still is). And no matter how old-fashioned that notion might sound, hypertext is still a fantastic way to communicate.

Over time, a blog becomes a corpus of knowledge - your knowledge, or your organisation’s knowledge. A blog is your brain, over time, on the internet. An archive of what you think now and what you thought before. And that means it’s one of the simplest and most effective ways you can make things open, and make things better.

The more you link new posts to old ones, the more of a hypertext you build. A blog is not PR, it’s not a good place for press releases. Rather, it’s an evolving hypertext of thought. The longer you use it, the more valuable it becomes. Old posts provide a backdrop to newer ones - you can link to them, and show clearly how your thinking has changed. Your archive becomes a library, a record of your organisation’s history.

Too many organisations seem to think that documentary evidence of their own changing opinions is a bad thing, but I disagree: it’s valuable. It shows that your organisation can actually think. That you can change and adapt. That you’re willing to be flexible, and have the conviction to say so in public.

Don’t write white papers. Don’t try to be “thought leaders”. Use a blog the way it was designed to be used: for thinking out loud. Don’t be afraid to think new things, or to change your mind as circumstances change or as new information comes to light. Write down what you’ve learned, post it on your blog, and let everyone else learn from it too.

Filed under: work
(9th November 2015)