Quite amazing, but this blog enjoys its 1st anniversary today!  I’d like to use this minor milestone to draw a few lessons learned, and perhaps some insight about blogging, Web 2.0, and management of change.

My entry to the blogosphere arose from 3 primary drivers:

1.  The first was the acquisition of The Concours Group – my corporate home for about 10 years.  Our new CEO, Steve Papermaster, said at our first meeting (and repeated many times since then), “If we are going to be successful helping companies become ‘next generation enterprises,’ we have to become one!”  This seemed reasonable, logical, even inspirational, but, to be frank, also somewhat mystifying.  What exactly did that mean?  How would we know we’d arrived?  What would look and feel different?

Fairly soon after that, the company implemented our own collaboration hub, were urged to avoid email except where it made sense (with some guidelines on how to decide), added personal tagging to declare, validate and track things such as competencies and interests, and were generally encouraged to learn and discover for ourselves how this might all play out.  Daily postings on the collaboration hub quickly exposed me to readings I would not otherwise have seen and soon began to expand my knowledge base, especially about the Web 2.0 world.  Recommendations and ‘early adopter’ colleagues soon turned me on the the magic of RSS and readers such as Google Reader.  Note, all this in a mostly “virtual” environment – my office is in my home, and many of us in nGenera rarely go into an nGenera office (though many of us do spend time in our customers offices.)

2.  The second driver was more direct – I got a call from blogger extraordinaire Susan Scrupski who had joined nGenera (as we became known sometime following the acquisition) telling me, “I’ve been appointed your blog coach – you need to start a blog, and I’m here to help you!”  I cannot overstate how important this little intervention was.  The coaching probably ended up being about 3 hours on the phone over a few weeks, plus some encouraging messages and advice between calls.  I now pass that advice on to my clients who are trying to become more “socially networked” in their own companies – find someone who’s already an active and successful blogger, and enlist them in helping others learn the trade, as it were.

3. The third driver is more subtle, but important.  I’m inquisitive at heart.  Over the years, my family has laughed at my occasional tendency to take up a hobby with great enthusiasm, and then drop it a couple of years later.  What they don’t appreciate is that when, for example, I took flying lessons when I first came to the USA, it was less about wanting to be a pilot, and more about curiosity about flying – I wanted to know about planes, controls, navigation, and so on.  (By the way, I did the same thing with remote controlled model planes I built, flew and crashed repeatedly for a couple of years way back when!)  When, some years ago, I bought a Sitar (an Indian stringed instrument) and took lessons from a local teacher, again it was curiosity, rather than any ambition to become the next Ravi Shankar.  (The joke there was my teacher would book my 1 hour lessons for 90 minutes to allow time for me to stand up straight after sitting for an hour in the proper, but very uncomfortable cross-legged position with the bowl of the giant instrument resting awkwardly on the inside of my bare left foot!)

So, I had a curiosity about blogging and about how it would work out for me.  On the other side of the ledger were a zillion reasons to resist becoming a blogger.  For example, I already had way more to do than there was time for – I feared the amount of time blogging would require.  I always fear learning a new technology, particularly if it’s not super-user-friendly.  As I looked at some of the basic blogging platforms, I had grave concerns about how much HTML and CSS I would need to learn.  Also, I have to admit that at the time, it was not clear what the benefits would be.  If I wrote it, would they come?  Even more important, would they come back?

So, what have I learned from a year of blogging?

  1. It actually takes me even more time than I imagined it would.  The surprise here was the need to read more, especially blogs, than I had ever previously done.  I reckon there’s probably one hour or more of reading time needed to support one hour of writing time.  The good news is that both the reading and the writing became such a pleasure, that it never felt onerous.  To the contrary, sometimes it is actually cathartic to sit and the computer and write (or read) late in the evening or very early in the morning.  For example, I’m writing this section at 6pm after a very long day in my home office, mostly on phone calls, web conferences, dealing with emails (yes – I still have those to deal with, though much less than used to be the case!)  I find this is a good time to unwind from the day and ease into the evening dinner and perhaps a Netflix video.
  2. I was initially disappointed at the low number of comments I received.  I’ve learned since that this is par for the course, and the level of commentary has picked up over time.  More important, some of the comments have been really insightful and have led me in unexpected and sometimes valuable directions.
  3. I have found that the process of mentally rehearsing things I will post about, and the posts themselves, often helps me process some of the day’s issues that surface though my research, client activities, or from the reading.  i.e., I feel better prepared to deal with these issues thanks to my digesting them through the act of blogging.
  4. Not surprising, but the patterns of readership are very cyclic – often highest on a Thursday, dropping over the weekend, picking up again on a Monday and building from there.
  5. Most satisfying has been the steady growth in readership.  I’m very pleased with the statistics and information WordPress (which I’ve been absolutely delighted with as a blog platform) provides, and am fascinated to learn what search terms bring people to the blog, my referrers, incoming links, top posts, and so on.
  6. More surprising to me is that the readership seems to have relatively little to do with how frequently I post.  I dare not experiment to find out at which point my posting frequency leads to an erosion of readership!
  7. I was very excited when I added the ‘Visitors to this site’ Clustrmaps widget.  I was initially excited as this was my first widget, and it worked!  (Trivial, of course, but as a novice I was not expecting that!)  But the real excitement came with actually seeing that blogging is truly is a global experience.
  8. After a year, I’m still a relative novice.  I’ve experimented with embedded videos and slideshows, but only occasionally.  I need to do more to bring the ideas and issues I write about to life.
  9. Good and unexpected things have surfaced out of my blog, including guest spots on other’s blogs, invitations to write and podcast, and I’ve made some new friends and important contacts.
  10. Finally, the lessons in change management.  I saw the firm’s leadership modeling the behaviors they expected from me.  They set a clear expectation for me, but not in a threatening or dictatorial way, but in a helpful and constructive way – the call I got from Susan.  Having a blogging coach to get me started was absolutely key.  At the time, Susan was working with 3 of us, so we were also able to form a micro ‘community of practice’ and learn from each other.

So, as I enter year 2, I’m relatively satisfied with the first year, determined to make the blog more interesting and valuable in the second year, and am extremely grateful to those who encouraged me to start a blog, and especially to Susan Scrupski for really being the catalyst that got me over the initimidation factor and learning curve.  Of course, my hightest gratitude goes to you the readers – I’m not sure this would be so enjoyable an activity if I was the only reader!