I’m not vain enough to think that everyone who comes across this weblog is going to find all of my thoughts fascinating. So I’ve been giving thought to why I do this. The old “a writer has to write” thing seems like a cop-out, and besides, if that were the answer, why’ve I never been interested in creating a private journal?
Part of the answer can be seen in the way I started blogging. This entry flowed from my fingertips one morning, almost fully formed, and I thought it was fairly good … but so far as I could tell it wasn’t sellable. Many of the things I write are that way: they’re very small pieces that would be difficult to turn into full-fledged articles (and I wouldn’t have time to do it anyway). Thinking about that led me to approach O’Reilly about a blogging spot on their site.
Another part of the answer lies in the heading on my “blogroll” over in the right margin. A few weeks ago, discussing blogging with Mike Clark, I described the blogging community as “like Usenet, but with only the interesting people.” I like that phrase, and it’s a pretty apt description. I recall that even in the heyday of Usenet (i.e., before AOL and spam) I tended to gravitate toward posts by people who were interesting. (Of course, dull people blog, too. But the point is that you can choose which blogs you read.)
Communities like that are important. So important that people have to keep reinventing them. After Usenet degraded, mailing lists experienced something of a resurgence, as did IRC. For a while, in the software development world, Ward’s Wiki filled the void. These days, much of that community seems to be rebuilding itself using weblogs.
All of these things are just different ways of extending our communities of interaction, finding other people to be a part of them, and increasing the opportunities for sharing ideas. Five years in a row now, at JavaOne, Duncan and I have made it a point to have at least one extended meal together. It’s a great opportunity to share ideas (baked or not), things we’ve learned, things we’re working on, and things we’re thinking about. Each of us always comes away with a head spinning with new things. Dave and I have lunch every two or three weeks, for similar reasons. Greg Vaughn and I regularly have extended IM chats that help keep us energized with new ideas. Dave, Chris Morris, Joe Tatem, and I recently organized the Dallas Pragmatic Practitioners, and it’s the best “user group” I’ve ever been a part of – largely because there’s so much opportunity for informal discussion, where you learn so much from the ideas and experiences of others. (I can think of several other people or groups I could put in this list, but I think you’ve got the idea.)
Blogging is one of the ways I contribute to this little “idea ecology” that I’m a part of.
Here’s an immediate example: last Thursday, Mike Clark wrote some interesting things about EJBs, and Duncan responded. The combination of those two posts resonated with a discussion we’d had at the Dallas Practitioners meeting two nights prior. (Synergy!) Until today, I’ve been too busy to write my own response knitting the three together, but you’ll see it next.