Scott Hanselman

Your Blog is The Engine of Community

January 5, '12 Comments [66] Posted in Blogging | Musings
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Photo by Steven Warburnton - Creative CommonsIn a time where there is much gnashing of teeth around the meaning of community, what being on the "inside" vs. the "outside" means, I want to take a moment to remind my fellow blog writers, blog readers, blog commenters what makes it all work.

You.

Not a secret society or old boy's network, not a select few or someone knighted by The Queen. It's the nameless, faceless web search result that makes community work.

I search all the time for help on the internet. I find blogs, tweets, Stack Overflow, MSDN and more. More often than not when I find the answer I seek it's on YOUR blog, not mine. Often it's not on a big company employee's blog or that of the chosen few. The answer was put out on a blog, without ask of payment or recognition, by a 25-year old Persian student, or a 60-year old exploring .NET, or a high school student with a passion for open source.

I, and this blog, was that random search result for at least 5 of the last 10 years. Someone searches for help and finds my little corner of the internet. Write a few blog posts a week, with useful content, consistently, for ten years. Then write some more. All free, all because you feel good putting it out there.

I would encourage you all to blog more. Tweet less. Blogs are owned by you. They are easily found, easily linked to, and great conversations happen with great blog posts. The river of social media rushes on and those conversations are long forgotten. A great blog post is forever. Today's real-time social media is quickly forgotten.

Don't be a meme, but a movement.

Blog your opinions. Blog your cool project, or your latest useful function or library. Don't blog if it feels like work. Blog and get excited when someone comments. Often the comments are more fun and more useful than the post itself. Be passionate, but not rude. Point out failings, but suggest solutions. Organize. Invent.

Be constructive, be helpful, be kind. Make your blog posts not too long, not too short, not too stream-of-consciousness and not too terse. Remember your elementary writing classes. Have a thesis, make your argument, restate your thesis.

Share because you want to. Share because you want to help, but also because you want to help yourself. Share not for the recognition but for the love of teaching.

It takes a village, dear reader, to be a community. It's you, and me and no one in between. Now, go write, create, commit.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Thursday, January 05, 2012 7:54:02 PM UTC
Very powerful post! I am inspired by your thoughts. Thanks from an anonymous reader that also goes by Ernie.
Thursday, January 05, 2012 8:03:42 PM UTC
One of my resolutions is to get my own blog going, on my own site. I want to build the site using Ruby on Rails. Why? Cause I don't know Ruby or the Rails framework and I want to learn a new language. My only conundrum is this: Do I build my own blog engine, use an existing plugin, or integrate with a hosted platform? Any suggestions?
Thursday, January 05, 2012 8:04:08 PM UTC
Tweet Less? Is this a change for you?

I agree with Ernie...great, inspiring post.
Thursday, January 05, 2012 8:06:20 PM UTC
I like the 9 tweets but 1 comment so thought I'd leave a comment ;)
Thursday, January 05, 2012 8:07:38 PM UTC
I couldn't agree more about pushing the conversation back toward blog comments and response posts. The way social media and aggregators like HN/reddit have embraced, extended, and extinguished the conversation that used to remain centralized and intact is a net loss. I enjoy Twitter for a lot of things, but it's ephemeral and obfuscates important context too often.
Thursday, January 05, 2012 8:07:56 PM UTC
Ernie - Thanks! Welcome.

Alexander - If you want to try that, perhaps do it like this?

Matthew - Thanks!
Thursday, January 05, 2012 8:09:10 PM UTC
@Alexander: TekPub has a free series on creating your own blog in RoR http://tekpub.com/view/byob-rails/1

Haven't watch it myself but everything I have watched there has been quite good.
Thursday, January 05, 2012 8:09:54 PM UTC
I am in the process of started a blog and I am still testing different blogging platforms and tools for posting to the blog.

What are some of your recommendations for blogging platforms and respective tools for posting to the blog?

One feature that would be important for me would be the ability to provide code samples nicely formatted and the ability to customize the look and feel of the blog to integrate well with the rest of my website.

Thanks.
Thursday, January 05, 2012 8:21:24 PM UTC
Great post and it would be great if blog comments could become less socially retarded. Besides the spam, most comments are "good job" or ass kissing or totally off-topic to the post. One of the inherent problems is that blog comments don't seem to take on the threded camradery that newsgroups or forums have. I blame the platform mostly since comments are written by one person, usually without contetxt like quoting or replying to a comment (except the moderator) so get lost in a serial tree of noise.

100% agree that Twitter is becoming the sounding board and bitch fest (as I'm sure this post was somewhat provoked by a recent Twitter bashing session). Twitter is live and fresh while blog comments linger. While I'm writing this, God knows how many more comments are going through your system. Or if my comment will even save.

Something more like a StackOverFlow/Facebook system is needed for blogs where you can a) respond to comments in a thread-like fashion b) quote other peoples comments c) create links to users comments and profiles with zero effort d) likes/dislikes on comments and replies and e) see new content being added in a real-time fashion.

One thing that stood out. "More often than not when I find the answer I seek it's on YOUR blog, not mine." I find the opposite, most of the stuff I look for I find on my blog.

Maybe I'm asking the wrong questions...
Thursday, January 05, 2012 8:22:50 PM UTC
I understand that FunnelWeb is a blog engine in .NET that is focused on code samples specifcally.
Thursday, January 05, 2012 8:23:36 PM UTC
Bill - Should I move this comment system over to to Disqus or some threaded system?
Thursday, January 05, 2012 8:24:24 PM UTC
This got me thinking -- I wonder how many blog posts I've written. I have 4 blogs on blogspot and it turns out I've written 145 blog articles in the past 5 years. Prior to that I wrote frequent news updates with accompanying open source projects at www.gldomain.com, starting in 1999. That's a lot of writing.

For those asking about blogging platforms -- it really depends on the server it's going on. For example, if it's a Windows server there are several promising .NET blogging platforms to choose from, but none are as well established as something like Wordpress. I was trying various blogging platforms for awhile before ultimately settling on blogger. I realized that in my case it wasn't so critical that the blog sit under the same subdomain as the rest of my site. Instead my blogs are at blog.--domain--.com. Blogger is ridiculously easy to sign up for and use and I've been happy with it.
Thursday, January 05, 2012 8:31:30 PM UTC
Alexander: I've done both, and both approaches are valid, but the real question is what is your goal?

If your *primary* goal is to produce content, then I'd go with an existing blog engine.

If your *primary* goal is to either a) learn a new technology or b) showcase your abilities with a technology, then I'd build my own.

The link Scott posted is excellent food for thought.

I've been toying with a similar idea for a while. Dynamically serving content from a database is great if you have dynamic data. If you have static blog content, then you are driving a giant RV to pick up a friend from the airport; you can do it, but it isn't the most efficient way. Unless your friend is all dynamic and stuff.
Thursday, January 05, 2012 8:32:53 PM UTC
I think a change might be good. You might want to try out some different systems that offer more than just a serial dump of peoples comments. Discus is one option but I'm sure there are others. I do think something different would help foster better collaborative discussions than what we have today (not just your blog). Of course moving to another system might impact old comments and I think maintaining yours is valuable so not sure what would happen on a new system.
Thursday, January 05, 2012 8:35:27 PM UTC
I only started blogging like a few weeks ago, as I felt it is one of those things you have to do as a developer, but I can tell you, it has been so much more fun then I expected it to be !

Actually I end up learning a lot more about a certain topic when writing an article about it and to get response back for the effort makes it also worth it.

Step by step ...
Thursday, January 05, 2012 8:37:57 PM UTC
Very nice and inspiring! Wanted to continue writing in my mossy blog, again. :)
Thursday, January 05, 2012 9:01:27 PM UTC
Thanks for your reply and the interesting comments by Bil.

I went and installed FunnelWeb to try it out. Looked good so I uploaded to my host to experiment further - Discovered that I got a new years present from my hosting company - they dropped .Net 4 support!

I guess I need to find a new host for my site before playing further with the blogs :(
Thursday, January 05, 2012 9:02:28 PM UTC
I can't agree enough with this, especially this time of year when the annual MVP drama occurs. This particularly annoyed me when I worked inside Microsoft. If you share knowledge strictly for the recognition, you're doing it wrong.

We have the most liberating and powerful communication medium ever created. I'd hate to see technology leaders squander it.
Thursday, January 05, 2012 9:02:44 PM UTC
Robbin - That's what happens! Teachers often learn as much or more than students.
Thursday, January 05, 2012 9:03:57 PM UTC
@Alexander:

Me, too! That is my plan - build a new blog with Rails as part of my learning Ruby on Rails for hobby. I am an analyst but I want to become a real programmer for hobby and side projects. I have built some small apps with C#, but I remained on the "student" level on my pursuit of programming with .Net/C#. I hope to change that with Ruby on Rails.

@Jles:

Take a look at wordpress.org
Thursday, January 05, 2012 9:07:52 PM UTC
Thank you kindly for the suggestions both Scott and Jeff! Always find this blog and its readers inspiring.
Thursday, January 05, 2012 9:16:17 PM UTC
Two quick comments:
Completely agree with all points here. My only wish is that I would get less blog search results that were nothing more than somebody cutting-and-pasting data from MSDN or Sql Server Books Online. Get out there, but be original or at the very least, helpful.

For those wanting to get started, Brent Ozar (twitter | blog) has a fantastic series about writing a technical blog:
1. How to Start a Blog
2. Configuring WordPress
3. WordPress Plugins
4. WordPress Themes
5. Blog Etiquette

It was a great guide for me when I was getting started. He also has a lot of great posts on SEO, etc.
Thursday, January 05, 2012 10:13:24 PM UTC
For those inquiring about starting a blog, I would personally suggest that you go with whatever gets you writing posts the most quickly and with the least effort. Maybe that means hosted Wordpress instead of rails or some other new DIY solution. Maybe that means joining an existing blog site that allows users to blog. Maybe that means documenting a stream of consciousness in notepad and storing the files on your local machine.

Get the thoughts flowing and build your body of work. The other details can be worked out, the substance of your blog can always be ported, the hosting company can always be changed, etc.

I can't speak for anyone else, but if I decided that I needed the blog to be perfectly formatted, hosted, written, etc, I would have a great excuse to put off starting a blog indefinitely.
Thursday, January 05, 2012 11:34:37 PM UTC
Scott-

As always I greatly appreciate your posts; they are always insightful. This is an important topic to me, so bear with a little devil's advocacy here. First...

I understand and agree that open participation breeds healthy community, and from that everyone prospers.

More so, it's great when participants are Christ-like and give without expecting return or compensation... and when they truly contribute rather than fluff their ego.

And there are certainly more of these "faceless people" than there are those in an "old boy's network" or "knighted by the Queen" (nicely put by way)... or even the Big Johns and Scotts...

But what of the nameless people who constantly trail in the wake of others' accomplishments? There are those who - as passionate as we are about something we've learned, or genuine as we are with our sharing - will always be the 84th person to post about building a JSON API on top of the MVC framework.

If their answers are as profoundly important as you say, would it not feel discouraging to remain faceless? Those with aspirations of accomplishment - minimal or grandiose, material or spiritual - are sure to feel like they remain destined to be a faceless digital shilouette sometimes...

This discouragement makes its difficult for earnest community members to be tenacious at times as we are not all Christ-like, and no one like's to feel 532nd best.
Thursday, January 05, 2012 11:43:01 PM UTC
Blogging is one of my resolutions for this new year as well as motivating other friends (mostly .net fellows) to do the same and be more collaborative.

I would like to blog in both Spanish and English, however I haven't found any blog engine that does localization nicely, out of the box. The closest I found was WordPress (with some plugins) or this version of .NETBlogEngine (not longer maintained).

I had been looking on .NET blog engines like SubText, dassBlog, NETBlogEngine and FunnelWebBlog. I haven't decided yet which one to use, but I'm willing to modify the one of my preference to support posting in different languages. Does anyone know any blog that meets this requirement?

Thanks!
Thursday, January 05, 2012 11:53:14 PM UTC
Supporting different languages in what way? In the URL? Via a setting? DasBlog (while very old) will allow you to blog once and do it in two languages.
Friday, January 06, 2012 12:03:00 AM UTC
Did I mention, automatic "Remember Me" checkboxes are really a annoying? I swap back and forth between two Google Accounts every day, and sometimes I don't realize I'm currently logged in with one in another tab, I post here, and OpenID is now tied to that account rather than my own personal account. Oh well.
Friday, January 06, 2012 12:03:29 AM UTC
Think this will help me on the way to posting more - started my blog just before the end of last year and was posting every day until December when I hit the wall. Posted again this morning for the first time after catching up on all the blogs I haven't found the time to read. I think the key thing is only write a blog post if you are enthusiastic about it - otherwise its a waste of you and your readers time.
Friday, January 06, 2012 12:09:42 AM UTC
nice post, seems like some people have made blogging this year's resolution.. while for me it's to blog more frequently :)
Friday, January 06, 2012 1:30:49 AM UTC
very inspiring and a great answer, I thank you and hope that you'll inspire many more developers.
Joakim Magnusson
Friday, January 06, 2012 1:35:01 AM UTC
Scott, Bil, anyone... what's your take on DISQUS? I started rolling my own comment system with my blog, but found it quickly getting out of hand with voting and threading... any experience or opinions with it?
Friday, January 06, 2012 1:48:36 AM UTC
You are so right. :)

The problem seems to be that while every passionate programmer has coded some great things, it takes time (usually boring unfortunately) to take them out of their integrated environment to be genuinely useful/helpful to other programmers.

And then even more time to write some body around the code to convince people that it is actually pretty good stuff.

I've been thinking about a LINQ 'cheat sheet', I found some, but none covered what I really needed in a format as concise as I'd like.

Time to blog perhaps :)
Wouter
Friday, January 06, 2012 3:06:18 AM UTC
@Scott, I just need multiple language support at the post level; so I can basically wrote the same post in 2 different languages. If DasBlog supports this I will take a look, but this was not listed on the feature list the last time I checked... I might have overlooked at it.

Thanks!
Friday, January 06, 2012 7:41:57 AM UTC
Hi Scott,
You're definitely right on that idea: more posts certainly does help with discoverability and also keeps those new-found followers. I've come across many a blog, but with the limited attention span of a 14-year-old, I have stuck with this one because of the regularity of postings and the quality of them. Keep it up!
PPS
Friday, January 06, 2012 8:36:36 AM UTC
My experience as a blogging developer/developing blogger: Horrible idea to try making my own blogging platform. Interesting? Yes. Fun? Of course. Lots of learning and new knowledge? Oh, definitely, yes! Actual blog posts being written? Not really...

Ended up going for a simple WordPress blog where I have tried to keep most things default and simple. I can then focus a lot easier on blogging on my blog. Having fun with platforms, tools, new languages and all that, I can do other places... and then blog about it on my WordPress blog ;)
Friday, January 06, 2012 8:38:29 AM UTC
Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu - A person is a person because of people

I really believe the fostering a sense of community (what we call Ubuntu in sunny South Africa) is really what we need to do here. Any contribution (be they from any channel - blog, twitter, SO, etc.) can move that community forward and should be encouraged.

I definitely think that the contribution that you have made to .NET, and development community in general, cannot be applauded enough.

Thanks for all your hard work Scott, I'm sure I'm not the only one that is grateful for it :)

P.S.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu summed Ubuntu up pretty well in his book "No Future without Forgiveness"
A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.
Friday, January 06, 2012 9:20:00 AM UTC
Very imperative.
Write more of this.
Friday, January 06, 2012 1:48:18 PM UTC
This is really encouraging post man. Professionally I am also a blogger and want to make my site a perfect blog site. I will definitely follow your points to make my blog as engine of our community.
Friday, January 06, 2012 5:04:16 PM UTC
Inspiring.
bas
Friday, January 06, 2012 5:43:38 PM UTC
Last year I took on the goal to start "writing" and I created my blog. I'm a developer, but I dream about fictional stories all the time. I created my blog in April of last year and added Google Analytics in August. I started it out as a tech blog, but then it really turned into a wannabe writers blog. However, my first tech blog post (how to create anchors in SharePoint 2010), to this day still gets 40% of my traffic. I didn't do it for the community though, I did it for myself. I'm just happy that 1 post is helping people.

As a developer I enjoy finding solutions in blogs verses answer sites. It puts emotion, logic, and reality into the solution. Answer sites are usually: Step 1-2-3-Done! Blog solutions are detailed with explanations on this is what I did and why at each step.

The blog community is awesome!

Jamie (aka @Tevyn)
Friday, January 06, 2012 8:02:16 PM UTC
@Grant Walker -
Nice comment. After my 'bit of a downer' post, it was refreshing and reaffirming. It was also cool to learn what Ubunto means after hearing the term in the computer world. I will read more on it... and I guess it simply proves what you and Scott were saying... a single sentence has the potential to make change in others. Thanks again.
Saturday, January 07, 2012 9:33:51 PM UTC
I started to write a blog but the depression part is lack of traffic / readers. When you spend hours writing an article and if you only get 2 readers its like why write ?

I guess every blogger need to know how to market them also ? any pointers to that subject.

Thanks

Jay
Monday, January 09, 2012 3:53:16 PM UTC
@Jay Janarthanan submitting your blogpost to codeproject or dotnetkicks helps. That will bring it up in the search results in Google. I only have a few blog posts at my blog and that now gives only a few readers/visitors a day or some days none.

While I didn't took the time for a while to continue with it, bad behavior, spend my time on other things :-). Thanks Scott for the reminder, need to spend more time blogging :-)

I don't think it's about the amount of visitors you get. Someone will at some point in time find it and start a conversation about it and then you are able to gain knowledge and improve some skill. I think it's more important to see blogging as a learning experience for yourself. It's a lot harder to explain something then to understand it. This will help you and let you think in a different way towards the things you think to know.

It took me ages to start, because I wanted a site which looks nice and was basically custom made. At the end I just sat down, installed something and decided I will start with this and then later on fix how it looks, but I must start. Still using that today and never took any more time to finish up the custom stuff that took ages to create.

Monday, January 09, 2012 4:26:47 PM UTC
Right on! Thanks for the encouragement.
Monday, January 09, 2012 10:05:29 PM UTC
Thanks Erik. I posted an an article on my blog today which talks about developer productivity
Daily Routine of a 4 Hour Programmer and its generating a lot of traffic because I assume its a story other developers are interested.

So I guess as long as I write articles that benefit other developers the word will get out.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012 12:34:39 AM UTC
go write, create, commit... I think I'm making that my new mantra :)
Larah
Tuesday, January 10, 2012 1:54:59 AM UTC
This post was so inspiring that I went to find myself a nice blog engine to start up a blog with. Completely unsatisfied with everything out there, I've decided to build my own markdown-based system. What have I gotten myself into? Thanks Scott...
Ryan Whitmire
Tuesday, January 10, 2012 9:32:30 AM UTC
Thanks for your inspiring words. Most of the time when I plan to write something the following barrieres come in front:
1. I feel, Am I writing something that many others already have written?
2. Is the topic is too elementary?

Sometimes swimming around different topics also moves the concentration around and thus many writings do not complete.

Do you have any suggestion?
Tuesday, January 10, 2012 9:40:46 AM UTC
But, can you present this information in a new, clear way that is best for YOUR audience?
Scott Hanselman
Tuesday, January 10, 2012 9:53:44 AM UTC
Scott, What do you think? Should I target myself as the primary audience. Many things we learn and use and forget after some time as they may not be used too frequently. I felt if I target myself, writing is easier.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012 9:54:56 AM UTC
Besides do you have any tips on writing good blog posts that will attract readers from the community?
Tuesday, January 10, 2012 6:47:08 PM UTC
@Mahmud

I feel much the same. Like I am would be the 300th person to write about using Ninject in an MVC app, or to showcase EF4's code-first in a demo app, etc. I feel silly offering something that can be found in many places already. Chances are, I learned it from someone else's blog, or free training... which means I'm likely just republishing at times. That's an obstacle for me getting my blog moving.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012 4:47:18 AM UTC
You are my hero, Scott! ;) I've been thinking about starting a little diabetes blog, but was hesitating. Then I read this post and I think I'm gonna go for it! Thank you. :)
Wednesday, January 11, 2012 3:27:42 PM UTC
Hello Scott, I'm an vivid reader of your blog and a huge admirer of your style.

I've started my own development blog this Januar 2th and found myself smiling while reading this post today. It was a nice coincidence I guess. I even quoted your first blog post in my first one...can you guess where?

I'm ashamed to confess this time I haven't read the comments and went straight down to the form, but the feeling I had just went over me.

What more can I say? I agree in each point stated in this blog, and I try to blog just like that, but sometimes it just gets hard to find the balance between technical content, amusing writing and the blogger-mood. So perhaps it takes a day or two, or even more, to write a post I actually like.

I'd love if you could take a look at mines and throw me some feedback or something.
Thursday, January 12, 2012 2:29:17 PM UTC
I love reading your blog. You maintain the balance between technology and amusing and interesting non-technical content. I wanted to blog for a long time.

Yes, I have started to blog again.
http://psrini.wordpress.com

My goal is at least once or twice a week. Let's see how it goes.

Friday, January 13, 2012 7:19:23 AM UTC
i totally agree with this I've been trying to push the importance of blogging at my company for the last 3 years, but adoption has been terrible. I find windows live writer + wordpress to be a fearsome combination and i leave it open all day. I write my notes in there, and when i finally finish something i spend an hour cleaning up my notes fixing up screen shots and writing a summary and intro, and bam a useful reference article.

but i can't get my peers to participate. They see the value, but it's the same old excuse over and over: i don't have time. I don't know how you get past this, if anyone has suggestions that have lead to success in their organizations please share them.
Saturday, January 14, 2012 2:18:18 PM UTC
You got the style to put simple things great way scott. I do always admire your works.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012 12:11:15 PM UTC
It's a Very informative article , all the informations are given very clearly.I really appreciated with it, I will bookmark this site.Thanks for sharing.
Thursday, January 19, 2012 3:56:41 AM UTC
This really is great. I've definitely benefited from the community when I've run into coding challenges in the past. For that reason I've been trying to post out to my own blog when I have something worth saying or sharing. I don't post as often as I feel I should, but something is better than nothing right?
Sunday, May 20, 2012 7:21:23 AM UTC
Yea.. i really love to post technical things which i learned and experienced..
good post Scott
Raminsha
Sunday, May 20, 2012 10:09:58 AM UTC
Hi Scott, not only was this post inspiring to me (and somehow motivating) it has reminded me of the fact, that we should give more information to everbody out there that will last longer than 3 seconds.
Sunday, May 20, 2012 2:41:16 PM UTC
Thanks for the inspiration. I just decided to start blogging on a regular basis, so this is a timely article.

Also, for those if you looking start a blog, check out "Geeks With Blogs". They do all the work hosting the site, leaving you free to blog.
80s Rocket
Sunday, October 21, 2012 8:03:29 AM UTC
Great and inspiring read on a sunday morning here in litle Denmark. Thank you :-)
Sunday, October 21, 2012 9:30:57 AM UTC
Just as I was thinking this morning about blogging about a major technology change at work, I read this blog, and I think that was the final push I needed.

I completely agree, blogging is best, but it is something you need to spend time on, and that is my only challenge...
Mantorok
Sunday, October 21, 2012 10:08:55 AM UTC
Hi Scott,

Its very nice article for early stage bloggers.Who is having 2 minds about his/her blog future.And also bloggers can use LinkedIn,G+,Twitter and stack overflow for bring users for there blog.

Thanks,
Sampath
Monday, April 08, 2013 3:24:37 PM UTC
Thanks for the inspiring post, I started blogging like two weeks ago, I'll do my best to keep it updated :)

Thanks
Taiseer Joudeh
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.