It's now the end of my first year of blogging in anger. I'm reflecting on the year past and thinking to what I'm going to do the year ahead, and I thought I'd try to articulate the things I believe worked for me, in the hope that they will clarify my own mind, and also perhaps help someone else along their journey.
1) Relax, JFDI and avoid Sophisticated Procrastination
I often get people come up to me and ask me how I mange to blog. And the answer for me at least is I don't worry about it, and I Just F***ng Do It. My early content was pretty poor, but it gets a bit better with time and practice. If you don't do it, you won't get better, and it is a vicious circle. And don't make excuses like writing drafts, perfecting, research and "life" getting in the way.
2) Be true to yourself
You may make mistakes along the way if you are true to yourself. You may annoy people. You may cause some damage to relationships that you have to repair and you may get a hard time. But if you are not true to yourself then your content will suck, and that's worse. Deal with the rest.
It always makes me feel great when Sanjay Poonen, President of Global Solutions at SAP catches me as he did last night and says something like: John, please keep writing this stuff. It keeps us honest and makes us better. And slightly offsets the abuse I get from elsewhere!
Also as Michaell Crapo points out, make sure you have fun. If you don't blog on what you're passionate or interested in, it will be dry. And then people won't read it and you will be shouting into a bucket.
Edit: Thanks to Tom Cenens for the correction on Sanjay's name. Fat fingers.
3) Be mindful of your relationships
On the other hand you have to be careful. I'm a SAP Mentor, Blogger, Partner and Customer. That's at least 4 hats I wear on a daily basis. I'm not saying you shouldn't write content because of that, but you need to consider what the impact of doing something might be, and how you intend to react. This isn't a caution not to write it, but just to be mindful of what the reaction will be.
4) Be even more mindful of being sensational
If you're going to be sensational, Thorsten (who wrote the article on the Death of SAP NetWeaver Java last year) then be even more mindful of the reaction. People within SAP or whatever other organisation, customers and then eventually your own employer may get on your case. People in large organisations (that includes SAP) often just escalate to make their point, rather than engaging with you. You have to be prepared to deal with this. When it happens, don't escalate back. Engage with them and talk it through.
As Tom Cenens points out below, this is especially true in terms of a title. Doing this can generate a lot of page views, but also a lot of upset. If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen!
5) Remember that content doesn't die
If you Tweet something stupid, it's gone the next day (usually). James Governor reminded me yesterday that it's not true if what you tweeted goes viral, but most of the time tweets go away. Blogs do not. Write something that may go out of date, and it may be used against you later. So delete it or update it, or deal with it. I had this happen recently on my SAP HANA FAQ, and I brought it up to date and apologised to the individual.
6) Throw a bone sometimes
Especially if you are a curmudgeon, you may consider throwing a bone sometimes. I can be critical of SAP and others and therefore when I see something I really like, I make a point of writing about it. It brings balance to the universe and gives people a warm feeling.
Edit: I thought I made this clear but Dennis Howlett had to interject with: "you missed one: kissing the odd a** helps occasionally..." - yes Dennis, it's the same thing.
Edit: Vijay has his 2 cents this too: "good one mate...my own rule is "only write if u can stand both boquets and brickbats". No bones thrown - it has to be earned". Fair point, and remember point 2) Be true to yourself.
7) Build a support network
I can't stress how important this is. And this is a good time for me to thank Mike Prosceno of the bloggers program in SAP for being a mentor and offering practical support. Same goes to Stacey Fish and Andrea Kauffman. And to my fellow bloggers Jon Reed, Dennis Howlett, Vijay Vijaysankar, Harald Reiter and Jarret Pazahanick in particular. You bounce ideas, help create content together and collaborate. Thanks everyone.
8) Never steal
Stealing someone's idea in the blogging world is very bad. Very bad. You will be ostracised and hated because content is king - it's what makes us. If in doubt and you came up with an idea together, ask if they mind if you write about it. It costs nothing, and losing a blog is nothing compared to your relationships and reputation.
Whilst we're there, don't intentionally lie. It's pointless and you will be caught up. Sometimes you will misquote someone or do something wrong as I did the other week to Alexia Tsotis on my blog: Why TechCrunch is boring, SAP is not, and the world has gone mad. Apologise, correct the mistake, and move on.
9) Be relevant
This relates to where you post. I post on my company website, personal website and SCN. I try to make that content relevant to the location. If you read my content hopefully you will realise that I often don't put market stuff on the Bluefin website. Or community stuff on my personal site. Or Bluefin stuff here.
It also relates to your content. Avoid cross-posting except where relevant - it just annoys people on the whole, and try to actually come up with something original. Blogging for the sake of blogging sucks. Technical content and HOWTOs is especially well-received by SCN and is a great way to get into blogging if you are scared.
10) You are not too young or too junior - or too old!
Several of my graduates from this last year blog. Brenton wrote the most this year so he gets the plug to his profile. He writes on matters of development, mobile and he has great content. He writes what he knows and it's good stuff. You can also do the same.
Also as Michelle Crapo points out, and Dennis Howlett lives, you can't be too old too. You can be boring and irrelevant though. And angry. Just kidding Dennis, age has nothing to do with it.
Some final words
I'd also like to put a special thankyou to my mentor, John Niland, who has helped me this year create clarity of thinking and action. Some of these ideas came from him (Sophisticated Procrastination for one) and he has been great. John is a great public speaker and would be great at an SAP event. So if anyone at the events team is looking for a keynote speaker then please get in touch with me, or with him.
I am grateful to the SAP Community Network for providing me with so many new friends and colleagues and relationships. And Mark: don't worry about the delayed new website, no one will give a crap in 3 months. Just get it right and get it live. Thanks to everyone and have a great 2012.