Friday 22 July 2005

Why We Blog

THRICE BITTEN THRICE SHY. Three times, that’s 3 times this week my blogging style has been challenged, commented on or praised.

It makes me wonder why we blog. I only know this: We’re all different, and a blog can only be what we as the individuals or groups behind the blog want it to be.

When you come to this site, it clearly states this is the place where I share my web development work and personal thoughts.

Why the confusion?

Just Be Happy

So this man walks up to me at Web Design World after I’ve just spoken for an hour on blogs and the different genres of blogs that exist. I consider my blog to be a hybrid blog in which both the personal and professional are combined. This gentle(?) man told me I shouldn’t post anything to my blog that wasn’t “happy.”

Now I don’t mind criticism. In fact, I would have never made a success out of my oft-questionable skills had I been too sensitive. But I really lost it on this poor man. He stepped on a few last nerves. First, I hate being told what I should or shouldn’t do, especially from a guy who has a New York accent and vaguely reminds me of my father. Bad combo platter. All that aside, I have these points: My blog is me. I don’t need to be liked, nor can I always express happiness.

Hippie Esthetic

I was told by a lovely reporter from National Public Radio (NPR) that my blog has a “hippie esthetic.” I think this might have been some kind of praise for the free nature of my posting. On the other hand, she seemed confused as to why my blog wasn’t “corporate.”

She’s not far off though. I come from the generation that immediately post-dated the hippies and therefore has been very influenced by that mindset. Do you think her comment rings true for my site?

Personal and Professional Splits

Many bloggers find they have or want to keep the personal and professional separate. A reader just wrote to me earlier today asking how I worked that out. Well, I’ve never really been able to split myself up that way. I’ve tried, and it doesn’t work for me. I figure I’m a whole person. If you don’t like me, you don’t like me. At SXSW this year, Jason Fried expressed something that frightened me only because it could have been articulated word-for-word by me.

Basically, he said that your blog is you. If a potential client is turned off by you, they probably aren’t a good fit anyway.

I find that to be really true.

Why Do You?

Why do you (or don’t you) blog? Perhaps more importantly, do you think it’s better to split professional and personal?

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 21:25 | Comments (46)

Comments (46)

  1. Nice article Molly :)

    I blog to promote web standards in the Middle East.

    About splitting professional and personal I think it has a special sense.
    I mean it is not easy for any body to merge them in an acceptable balance like you.

  2. I totally agree that your blog is a reflection of you and that this is how it should be. My blog is almost exclusively about web design in its many forms and is there as much to remind me of my thinking on different issues as it is for anybody else. Interestingly some of my work colleagues have started referring to it a lot in their proposals. That is fine and I have no problem with it, but then they started to complain about my writing style and spelling/grammar. Admittedly, they have a point in these areas but it is my personal blog. I do not want to have to spend hours perfecting every word. It is supposed to be a spontaneous outpouring of my thoughts and ideas not a series of white papers.

  3. Hi Molly, I was wierded out when someone said to me “Your blog’s so personal”. Of course it is. It’s what I’m thinking about at the time. This week I’m thinking about the bombs in London and the play I saw yesterday and the Web Standards book I’m reviewing. Sometimes I think about music, sometimes about sex. My blog is my name – not – so it’s about me and I can post what I like.

    And so should you.

    If other people don’t like it, well – I believe there’s a couple of dozen other blogs dotted around the web.

    Blog on!

  4. Molly, your blog states at the top that it is both personal and web development. No one can claim that they have been deceived. My view is that even business blogs are run by people and people have personalities. Why try to hide it. Your clients are going to find out what you are like sooner or later.
    With your type of blog your readers feel like they have gotten to know you. I think that can only be a good thing.

  5. I blog as a personal release and for the occasional buzz I get when someone sends an e-mail or leaves a comment. And, because it makes me feel liberated to be apart of something that is trail blazing and forward thinking. I can say to my grandchildren “I was part of that”.

    It’s good to take stock of things and reflect. For me, I like the combination of personal and professional. It’s refreshing to see that if I read one of your books I can come here and communicate with you directly but also to see the personal you as well. It’s inspirational.

  6. Molly, I really enjoy you being you on your blog. That’s the way it ought to be. I think we are the beneficiaries when you want to reveal the personal side of life. That’s why so many call you a character.

    My blog focuses only on accessibility techniques, a small part of life. I could “be happy” and write frequently about the wonderful things happening in my life. I could just as easily, actually more easily, fall into commenting on my life as a grumpy curmudgeon who wrestles daily with the creaky mechanisms of a very large corporation. Sticking with the accessibility work keeps the blog where I want it. However, that leaves me rather colorless and not at all a character. :)

    Don’t let the critics get you down, esp the ones with the NY accent. (Disclosure: I’m a New Yorker, transplanted about 30 years ago. Having spent only half my life here, I still retain a bit of my native Hoosier drawl.)

  7. Hi,

    Your personal and professional post are an inspiration. Stay Your Course.

  8. Great article Molly.

    I have people questioning my blog from time to time – someone said my blog was a sleeping pill last week – and I also despise people telling me what to do. It can be quite frustrating dealing with people who question your blogging style and why you blog.

    I think so long the blogger is happy with their blogging style they shouldn’t let non-constructive criticism get to them and stop them from blogging the way they want to.

  9. I may not always agree with your perspective, but I acknowledge (and am willing to defend) your right to speak your mind. That is partly what it means to have a free country.

    I am contemplating a blog. Though I may support 2 seperate feeds to bring about the balance that I want.

    I think that the professional/personal mix on your blog works well for you.

    Thanks for asking!

  10. [Just Be Happy]
    IMO: It’s your blog Molly and it’s your call what goes on it…as you say: you’re not always going to be happy about everything. I think the guy’s intentions weren’t meant in a bad way – he just phrased it wrong (or he was also out of luck for looking/sounding like your father!)

    [Hippie Esthetic]
    Yeah, it’s got a bit of that…it’s part of its charm and a reflection of your character (possibly?)

    [Personal and Professional Splits]
    I’m about to add a blog (my first ever) to my own site and this is one of the questions I’ve been toying with lately – how to maintain that split? (If it is even required at all?) Some site authors do this quite well, and many can’t – their colourful personalities need an expressive outlet! I don’t think your personal posting on this site have ever bordered on troublesome though (from what I can see)…so you’re on safe ground anyway! :-)

  11. Kitta: I love your blog! :-)

  12. I Don’t know why I blog. It could be a myriad of deep seated reasons or something as simple as recognition from other.

    I mix both personal and professional. Then again most clients visit my business site, not my blog.

    This is strange, I posted the same question in the afternoon on the same date.

  13. Thought I’d add a different perspective.

    I don’t blog. I like blogs (especially yours Molly), like the idea, and I’ve thought about doing it, but I’m reluctant.

    Why? Well, to start with I don’t feel I have much to say. I mean sure, I can talk for hours or write pages and pages in some contexts, but a *blog* – what on earth would I say, and why would anyone be interested?

    Secondly, if I *did* blog, there would be no point if it wasn’t honest. But I’m not sure I want everyone (clients, parents, strangers) knowing the plain truth about my life. I want to be able to preserve boundaries, tell white lies, keep secrets.

    Third, while I can handle thoughtful criticism, I don’t think I could deal politely with people who tell me I should be “happy” or ask me if I’m a hippy. Relatedly, I don’t know if I’m thick-skinned enough to cope with harsher criticism or abuse from less benign readers.

    Fourth, I don’t have the time. Well, sure, you have time for the things you want to have time for, but most of the time if I’m not working or reading other people’s blogs, I want to turn the computer off and do something else.

    None of this is intended as criticism of people who blog – as I said, I like blogs and I’m happy that others do it. I just prefer not to, for the moment.

  14. I blog because “writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia,” to quote E. L. Doctorow.

    It gives me a chance to explore thoughts – my own and those of others – and revise my understanding of certain ideas and concepts.

    I don’t really consider my blog a professional marketing tool. Its nature is a smorgasbordic melange of posts about facts, experiences and life. You probably won’t find any highly focused niche content or major ah-has on there, but it does give readers an insight into who I am and how I think.

    Not too long ago, one visitor sent me a note to tell me how much he loathed my writing style.

    I promptly deleted it, because his IP address did not belong to the Pulitzer or Booker Prize committees.

  15. I don’t blog. Writing about my life I do in my journals. I see very little reason to put my private thoughts out there.
    Over the last few months, while trying to fuse CSS into Perl templates, I have been tempted to start one as dealing with the frustrations of this learning curve got quite high at points.

    I have never believed in seperating private and professional affairs. If I would do that I would be in denial of my own life.

    So I fully understand your appraoch. It’s about passions. Whether that is the last lost love or x-browser issues is of equal importance.

    And I love this place for it.

  16. I blog because I have stuff that’s in and wants to come out. Sometimes that stuff is professional and sometimes it is personal, and sometimes it’s neither.

    I find that i can express these things, both to myself and to others, more clearly in writing than I can face-to-face. Writing also compels me to think more clearly about these things.

    I am lucky to be in a situation where I am an in-house web professional and not trying to attract new clients. That eliminates that variable for me, but I think I would keep doing the same thing even if I was a freelancer. I don’t use my blog to market myself or my skills, I use it to have conversations.

    As for the “hippie aesthetic”, I wouldn’t use that term. Your place feels friendly and feminine to me, but not frivolous.

  17. Your blog should be what you want it to be. I keep different sites for my personal stuff, hobbies and professional content. This is a personal choice based on what works best for me, and what I believe will work best for my visitors. That said, I would never be so arrogant as to tout this as “the” proper way to go for anyone else. Do what works for you, period. If you like it, it’s right. I enjoy your site, or I wouldn’t be here. :-)

  18. I like the blog format of

    There’s all the official webdev news when you need it, but it’s not restricted to that. I like reading that kind of content to keep up to date, but an entire blog of it becomes monotonous.

    Having the personal thoughts and poetry creates a welcome break from ‘business’ and really gives personality to the site.

    This isn’t a website about some entity called Molly, it’s the website of Molly Holzschlag the human being.

  19. How can you split your professional form your personal side? It is not a split, it is a repression. You try to take out the personal out of your professional persona. That might be good for a pencil pusher somewhere, but luckily for us it is less needed in the programing environment (we are all weirdos, we know it, and we try to tolerate others like us (we even enjoy it?)) and I think it was never needed in an artistic environment (like design). What? Take the artist out of the designer?

  20. Pingback: » Blog Archive » Fed Up

  21. So a blog is mirror… no wait, it is a lens… no wait! it is a mirror *and* a lens… Both can clarify or distort…

    Ahh, but metaphors are minefields with danger in every step,. Trying to put all the flavors of blogs into tidy boxes is as much as fallacy as trying to put people into tidy boxes.

    There is no one or right way to be (or blog). To thine own blog be true. Rock on as you choose (and you do).

  22. I also find it impossible to separate my personal and professional life. I am a minister by trade, and maybe that has something to do with it. But I really identify with you, Molly, in that we are a whole person. We don’t do something in one area of our lives without it affecting, no matter how small, some other area. Professional, personal, me.

  23. Molly,

    I was at that very session in Seattle. I thought your talk was great, although more focused, it seemed to me on personal blogs rather than business blogs. That is not my point.

    I thought I’d say that I love blogs. I think that the invention of the blog pushed the web to being what it needs to be. Personal. We have all sat on hold on the phone listening to prerecorded crap. We are human and we need that personal touch.

    The same is true of commercials. If a commercial doesn’t speak to my inner person by being funny or personal in some way, I don’t want anything to do with it.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Jason Fried. Your blog is you. I have also been told to split my personal and business ventures, but I wont. I want people to see the kind of person I am and get to know me before they do business with me. Its like the old days again. Getting to know the person behind the business.

  24. You and I have discussed why I love your blog – so I won’t beat that horse.

    I blog because I enjoy throwing my opinions out there. I write privately, and don’t share much of that. It tends to be the kind of goofy musings one would expect from the criminally insane.

  25. The intended audience of my weblog is _me_. I know that’s awfully insular in this world that’s all about connecting and communicating, but so be it.
    People who’re interested in me, or in the things that interest me, are welcome to read my weblog. Sometimes I will even address them (or google, really) directly. But in the end, my weblog, my website, my personal stomping ground. If people don’t like the way I write or what I write about, chances are it’s possible for them to find an alternative weblog which they like better.

    Although there are definitely a lot of people who run their weblogs as little zines, carefully edited and full of little articles designed to show off the things they already grasp completely, I personally like the personal style much better.
    Either way, it’s up to everyone individually how to run their weblogs. And as long as I have the right not to read it, I am quite happy with that. :)

  26. Molly, I think most folks who embrace living in Tucson will be accused of being hippies by those who don’t “get it”. I was when I moved to Northern Virginia. Don’t change for those anonymous losers and jackasses who don’t get it. Do what you want to do, go to Los Betos, get carnitas, enjoy. ; )

  27. Molly, I’ve had the same comment about separating personal and profesionnal blogs but have decided not to do it. Some people will be able to separate the two clearly, others won’t. I for one mix both because my job is completely part of my life and interacts with it. For instance, quite often, a personal experience will give me ideas on how to solve a work problem. On the other hand, I have visited a lot of countries in this world thanks to work and through this have discovered cultures and people I knew nothing about. Private life and work influence each other so there’s no way I could split them in any sensible manner.

    In fact, you could go further: I am a keen amateur photographer and I love travelling, reading and sailing. Should I have blogs dedicated to photography, travel, books or sailing and keep my main blog for random thoughts? That would become way too difficult to maintain and would only show part of who I am.

    Everybody is different and other people will have different views and different ways to do things.

  28. I forgot to say that I think this site works really well and you’ve clearly stated it’s a personality site so you are right to just be you.

  29. After twenty plus years working in a large telecom giant (which no longer exists) I remember two things that helped mold my corporate self. These were both told to me by a manager when I was fairly new to the company: 1. Your watch makes the man! I can tell everything about you by the watch you where. 2. Perception is reality.

    Let me say after being told this I thought the guy (and these were different managers) was a big jackass and wondered what that heck did I get myself into. This brainwashing went on for 20+ years. It is very easy in that environment to try with utmost effort to keep the personnal separate from the professional.

    Twenty years hence and after numerous work experiences, I’ve found my true calling as a consultant and agree with you wholeheartedly. You cannot separate the two, personal and professional, if they in fact make up the one person. You are not something external to yourself. There will always be people who will be quick to criticize and pass judgement but as long as you know who you are and are true to yourself then as we say in Hawaii, you are Pono!

  30. The questions of positive versus negative and how personal to be have been problems for me too. My site is about writing, with a few sideways topics thrown in, but I find it hard to use the site to say personal things because I want the site to be informational, yet sometimes my posts have to be personal because they are about my professional experiences, and I have very definite (and not always positive) opinions about what has taken place over the course of my career.

  31. I’m a bit late but…

    I blog because I like to write, like to meet people and think it helps me learn. Well, and I like to express myself.

    Oh and I hate people telling me what to do also. That and people who assume they know my motivation for doing something. I don’t know how many times people have told me (usually incorrectly) why I’m doing something…

    Good post as always!

  32. Pingback: » Why Do We Blog Asks Molly : Pig Work : Weblog of Freelance Designer Steven Clark aka Norty Pig, Hobart, Tasmania

  33. I don’t blog because I’m not compelled to communicate that way.

    I don’t blog because it would divide my attention and fracture my free time. It requires more time and guts than I have.

    More important than arbitrary commitment to the practice, it seems to me, are valuable contributions by smart, focused people — like Molly.

  34. I’m only commenting on the “Personal and Professional Splits”. I maintain my blog as an extension of my professional identity. The truth is I can’t seperate my personal from my professional life any more than I could seperate my hand from my arm. What I think about all things influences how I work and what I’m willing to do. My professional work is an expression of my unique gifts and talents which is all derived from the things that make me who I am, which is of course quite personal.

    It is a western thing, I believe, to try to overcompartmentalize our lives and to isolate certain ‘selfs’ in order to try and protect other ‘selfs’ from being hurt. There is no seperation between personal and professional for me since who I am is so important to how I work and what I work on.

  35. I just purchased your book, “HTML and CSS” Are there any additions or corrections needed?

    What do you know about “Mambo” and other sources for CSS usage.

    Lawrence May

  36. Pingback: Robert’s talk » Why I blog

  37. A bit late but still…

    I started blogging as a way to actualise my thoughts about my daughters autism. Its helped me sort out my own often confused and conflicting issues about autism and disability. It also helps to have a place I can interact with adult autistics.

    Because of my beliefs regarding autism I come in for a lot of stick (I don’t believe autism requires a cure) and it gets very personal at times. When it does, I switch tacks and start writing about web design/development issues for awhile :o)

  38. Hi Molly, I blog to share my knowledge and try to motivate the Greek web designers to do the same.

    It is not easy to blog all the time as I have a full time job but I do my best.

  39. This post definitely had me thinking. As I have been through a rollercoaster ride over the last nine months with the Tango42 dating site, there are definitely a number of stories and CSS probs to be shared.
    So I started one at blogspot: (no originality prizes here)

    And yes, I promise in due time I will move over to Movable Type.

    This post has been an inspiration. Molly, Thanks!

  40. I’ll just get my 2cents in. I don’t think blogs are a professional outlet. As far as I’m aware and understand, by there very nature, blogs are just online diaries. They’re there as an outlet for your personal life.

    Personally, I think published articles stand as a more professional outlet. But that’s just me.

    I will just add that blogs can, potentially, be made to look semi-professional.

    I hope I don’t upset anyone by these comment. :$

    – Brent

  41. All I can say is…

    Freakin’ Guy. Shut up. It’s a classic that you even wrote about this in the unhappy manner you did. Keep it coming!

  42. thank you for your effort inthis BLOG, its help me in my assigment and i take it as an exmple….BE HAPPY :)
    really it helpfullnand you leave your won fingerprint with combining between the left bar(( personal)) and the righ one ((professional))…good luck

  43. ?????????? ??? ????????? ?? ??????????? ??????? ??????????? ? ???????? ?? ???????. ??????? ?? ??????? ? ??????? ???????? ??? ? ????????! ???????? ? ??????? ??? ?????.
    ?????? ???????!

  44. Pingback: The Great Blogging Query Part 1 - To Blog or Not to Blog

  45. This Blog is really helpful to me. Its a learning experience. Hope everyone feels the same.

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