Think about it … you’re starting out and you want to get the most value from the least effort. That doesn’t mean that you are inherently lazy, it means that you want to make the most of the time you have available.
Starting a blog is pretty much like starting any other technical project that interacts with people, you will need to learn the mechanics and you will need to learn how to write for your audience.
Immediately, you have two mostly unconnected streams.
You can spend a fortune on Business Analysis courses, and the books to go with them; you can spend a similar amount of money on Project Management courses, and the books and videos and workshops – and tee-shirts(!) – and everything else that goes with them.
Don’t get me wrong, these courses and books are full of wise words and inspiration … and you can learn a lot.
How much do you really need to learn?
Once you have learned all about Business Analysis techniques and the principles of Project Management, you may start to apply your new-found knowledge to a review of the finer aspects of Business Analysis and Project Management.
When you do, you will discover that everything you can learn in the two disciplines can be resolved into the following:
- Think before you do
1 – Think Before You Do
Take a step back and think about what you are trying to achieve.
Wise men say … only fools rush in.Elvis Presley
All Business Analysis methods are built around distinct and specialised techniques for turning ideas into deliverable propositions. They are all designed, without exception, to limit the enthusiastic from jumping straight in, at the deep end, with both feet.
All system design methodologies, even with their outward philosophical and technical diversity, are all designed with one thing in common: to force the individual systems practitioner, usually a business Analyst, to consider the implication of their actions … before it’s too late.
Expensive mistakes await the keen and the unwary. I always try and advise people to “do the analysis!” Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.
I used to run a project team, and in that project team were two developers of pretty much similar capabilities and experience.
Given the same sort of tasks, the guy would get all excited – the tasks were usually quite interesting – he would wave his hands in an enthusiastic show of understanding and then dive straight onto his keyboard, tapping away furiously and swearing under his breath about the “rat’s nest” code left by previous incompetents that he was having to deal with. The girl, on the other hand, would sit down with a piece of paper and start drawing diagrams. She would calmly identify and document the requirements and the solution … and then she would get a second pair of eyes (often me) to walk through it with her. We’d usually pick up any issues at this point, and would resolve them before any coding began.
She always finished first and then made herself available to help sort out the rat’s nest.
That’s my perspective on analysis, design and building … and it’s just as aplicable to building a blog. Stepping back and taking time to consider the bigger picture pays dividends.
It could also be seen as timewasting by the Project Manager who likes to see busy fingers.
There is a counter position, which Project Managers will adopt, especially when time is running out.
2 – Think JFDI
Just flippin’ do it!
Whilst a project is running smoothly, to time and on budget, the smiley-faced Project Manager leads from the front, monitoring the delivery schedules and taking overall responsibility for keeping the handles turning.
In my experience, and it doesn’t matter how a project is set up or managed, at some point, somewhere along the line, there will be time pressure – it’s almost inevitable. Often – especially where there is time pressure – you are going to find a sad-faced “manager” keen to bypass the “processes” to get the job done.
“JFDI” … the last post for many a pressurised Project Manager. Feel free to upgrade the expletive if you think there is a better one – I think there may be!
It’s just the nature of the service delivery game. Managers are ultimately responsible for the delivery and it is only to be expected, therefore, that whenever a delivery looks to be in jeopardy, you are likely to find a manager looking for opportunities to recover.
Those opportunities to recover have to come from somewhere.
Opportunities for recovery are generally associated with savings in time, hopefully without compromising quality. Care is needed here but time savings can be made if the Project Manager has the necessary experience to provide the team with detailed instructions. The downside, however, is that the team following the instructions are doing stuff but they are not learning why they are doing the stuff they are doing!
In time-saving JFDI situations, personal development is usually sacrificed for delivery.
The principles of JFDI work as a one-off, say in an emergency, but in most longer-term situations they are just not sustainable.
The reason developers are guided through the whole development lifecycle is to ensure their ongoing personal development, because as experienced developers, they are able to add significant value to the company.
Building code using “keyboard monkeys” can be quick and efficient but as a consequence, knowledge and experience are essentially exported.
JFDI can be used by corporates, but at a cost.
Can JFDI be used by bloggers?
Of course it can!
Most blogging beginners want to get on with the blogging, so developing a blogging platform and a writing framework is usually a one-off exercise. There are, of course, those who want to learn about blogging so they can teach about blogging, but they are a special case and they are not the focus of this site.
For the blogging beginner, following up some initial thinking with clear instructions on what to do next is going to be time well spent.
The Blogging Beginner
You now have a mindset and a framework for delivery.
The mindset is one of considered thought (think before you do) and the framework is a set of instructions that will transport you quickly to where your considered thought is telling you that you should be (JFDI).
3 – Think … why do you want to blog?
Before you start writing a blog, you should take some time to think about why you want to start writing a blog. Some reasons might be that:
- you have the skills, you have the knowledge, you have the experience … you have stuff that could be useful to others
- you have an idea for a blog
- you can see a path to profit through monetisation
- you can develop your writing skills
- you can develop your technical skills
Before making any commitments, step back and think about it. Think about why you want to do some blogging, think about what you have to offer and how it might be received, and then think about yourself this time next year.
It’s 2020 as I write and the world is going through some fundamental changes. Putting health concerns to one side, the global pandemic has had a significant impact on the way we relate to each other and social distancing has changed the way that we interact.
It has also had an impact on the High Streets in our towns and cities, and it has changed the way we approach work.
The health crisis has pushed a lot of shopping online and has forced many office workers to work from home. Sadly, it has also meant that a significant number of the workforce are no longer working – unemployment is rising … rapidly.
Whilst there is much to be concerned about, changing circumstances always present new opportunities … and the rate at which the world is moving online is growing. Establishing a blogging presence in 2020 can help you to approach the changing situation we find ourselves in as an opportunity.
If you think it’s a good idea, ask yourself what you might want to achive … and then think about planning your blog.
You should then start your blog.
4 – Think … what should you blog about?
You may be one of those people who know exactly what you want to blog about. If you are, you’re one of the lucky ones. When I started, I wasn’t sure. But … as I was doing my research – think before you do – I realised that whilst there are lots of good blogsite-building resources out there, there is a bit of an absence of any clear step-by-step instructions for beginners – the JFDI approach.
Most blogging resource sites seem to have been written by long-time bloggers who are reconstructing their time as a beginner. The difficulty with this approach is in the context. The long-time blogger understands the wider context whereas the beginner probably does not. This means that the long-time blogger giving advice to the beginner is assuming the beginner knows more than should be reasonably expected.
There is a gap.
I realised that I could fill that gap … because of my experience in developing real-time customer-facing systems and services.
I had found my niche.
I can relate to the pain of the blogging beginner, and so I created The Blogging Beginner. The Blogging Beginner is a step-by-step detailed guide to getting started, written by someone who has had to fill in the gaps left by the experts.
So, consider what you are good at and what you feel passionate about … use this guide to help find your blogging niche. Remember, you’re looking to find yourself a niche where you can write blogs that you would enjoy reading. If you aren’t going to enjoy them, how can you expect your readers to?
There is no point in spending the next few years forcing yourself to write articles about stuff that just bores you silly. I like doing systems development and I understand systems development processes. I’m not sure that I would describe myself as “passionate” about systems development, but I like making stuff. I already have more ideas for articles to write than I could comfortably accommodate this year and next … and they all interest me.
You need to find something that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning.
5 – Think … what does your audience look like?
Most people interact with Google by asking questions, or at least some cut-down version of a question: “population hertford” rather than “What is the current population of Hertford?” Pragmatically, the form and presentation of the questions aren’t particularly important because Google’s magic search pixies can usually translate and extract the intention.
In most cases, the Magic Search Pixies can work out what you are trying to ask before you’ve finished asking, which is useful for keyword searching.
Questions are usually specific, and they are often time-sensitive. It’s also generally true that the people who ask the questions are looking for answers they can act upon.
Knowing your audience will help you to define and refine your blog.
And remember …
These people have landed on one of your pages because Google considers that your pages contain information relevant to their question.
Is your content pitched at the right level for your audience?
Visitors to your site will be looking mainly for two things:
- the answer to their question, which is after all the purpose of their search,
- a warm feeling about the nature of the answer … is it to be trusted?
It’s important to consider the demographics of your target audience, and what you are trying to present to them. It’s no good presenting low-level technical detail to a novice, and it’s no good presenting high-level beginners stuff to experts. It would also be a challenging exercise to develop a presentation style that can combine the two extremes in a single approach.
Spend some time thinking about your level of knowledge across your chosen subject. It doesn’t matter that you don’t know everything as one of the exciting bits about blogging, the bit that gets you out of bed in the morning, is doing the research and then doing the writing. Whatever you write about, there are likely to be readers who already know this stuff as well as readers who don’t. You’re not trying to serve everyone – and you can’t serve everyone – so establish for yourself a model target audience and write for them. Your audience will naturally line up with the model.
The content you provide in response to a question should answer the question, but it should also generate further interest in your site.
So, five things to think about before you start your blog.
One of the things you ought to be thinking about is concerned with your blogging Platform.
The other four out of the five things you should be thinking about are concerned with Content.
The value of your blog is embodied in the content, and yet to get to the place where you can add value to your blog, you have to navigate the process of building your blog. The Blogging Beginner can guide you through the early stages, showing you the easy bits and helping you master the hard bits … and the bits that no one else tells you about. I have a list!