This is post #300 on my blog, so I thought I would “celebrate” by writing something about blogging, and why I value this experience so much.
History and motivation
I started blogging in 2009, rather late in the phenomenon, despite having a personal web site as early at 1989 – which makes me an old-timer. The fact is I didn’t think I had anything to write about, and I wasn’t particularly interested in writing opinions on stuff because I didn’t think it mattered to anyone.
However, I decided to write something; I’d come across a problem where I needed to convert a huge set of PDF files to images. This was SAR related because the PDF files were maps, and I wanted them in an image format so I could manipulate them. It took me a little effort to figure out how to do the conversion and I thought other people would benefit from the knowledge, so I wrote it up and published it. And then someone emailed me about the post and thanked me profusely for solving their problem. I was addicted.
It took me a while to find a “voice”. Originally the intent was for this to be a personal blog rather than something SAR specific, so my early posts were about me, and some personal things. I have since deleted some of those, and moved others to a personal blog that my family and friends sometimes read.
However, since a lot of my life revolves around SAR, things I posted tended to be SAR related. So I decided to take on a project to force myself to write, and for a year I logged every SAR-related thing in a series of posts I tagged with “SARDay“. Then I wrote “How to Kill Yourself Snowshoeing” which was about a pattern of accidents I had noticed. And then the floodgates opened.
I remember reading somewhere that when you start writing often the worry is that you will run out of things to say. I have found that when you write, you think, and thinking results in more writing. Once you tap into this well, it keeps giving you things. Of course the problem is to decide what are the good ones, and what are the bad! That’s where you, dear readers, come in.
Why I Blog
So why do I blog? It certainly doesn’t make any money (as you can read here, I finance this blog myself with no advertising).
The first reason is that taking my thoughts and structuring them in a readable, presentable form is a very useful exercise. When you think through a problem this way it adds a certain measure of order and rigour to the thoughts. Of course the presentability and order are for you to judge; sometimes I think people comment on here without actually reading the posts! Perhaps they are in fact unreadable?
Presenting your thoughts for public reading exposes them to scrutiny. A side effect of publication is that you tend to think things through more thoroughly, anticipating possible objections. This is an excellent skill to develop because rather than a knee jerk opinion that you might hold without any rational reason, thinking and then writing about such opinions gives you the chance to think through other points of view.
And speaking of points of view, comments and emails are some of the most valuable parts of blogging – I “meet” new people, I hear new ideas, and learn a lot about how SAR works in different parts of BC, Canada, and the rest of the world. Even seeing people share my posts in an online forum somewhere (Clubtread, I’m looking at you) results in some interesting discussions that I benefit from.
Another reason I’m blogging, and continue to do so, is that it gives me a reason to research something; if it was for my own (quite often obsessional) interest, I could perhaps justify the time taken. When I add the possibility of others benefitting, learning, and perhaps building on the work, then the time and effort becomes easier to justify.
Finally, I’ve met a lot of people doing this! I’ve been invited to speak at a number of events, journalists have contacted me on stories for local and national publication, and I;ve managed to take a few of my blog posts and develop them into presentations, and one or two articles that have been published in print. Still no money, however.
Looking back over the past 300 posts I see myself finding a voice, and developing as a writer. I think it’s a good exercise, just like lifting weights or working out is good exercise for the body. My day job involves writing a lot of computer code and thinking in numbers, so it’s probably a good idea to write in english from time to time.
I’m going to continue blogging. What I write about in the future will probably look a little like what I’ve written in the past, but will also reflect new thoughts and ideas, new technologies, and possibly even new attitudes as I learn more things from the people I meet, and my own experiences.
As I have written before, most of what I write about I have learned from people much, much more knowledgeable that I. These things come from reading, formal courses, and informal discussions. To my mentors, the SAR members of British Columbia and the rest of Canada, this post is dedicated to you.