Have Strong Convictions, But Hold on to Them Loosely

Strangely enough, this post is about why I blog.

I try to avoid posts about blogging, but I thought it might be worthwhile to think about and explain why I blog.

The mental exercise of blogging provides an opportunity for me to…

Refine my own thoughts

When I think about the why I blog, this one reason sticks out the most to me.

Sometimes, I don’t enjoy writing. Sometimes a post doesn’t end up just flowing out of my finger tips—it feels more like I am yanking a tooth out.  But, I always have to go through a process of refining my thoughts on a subject and there is definitely value in that process.

Since I’ve started writing and teaching, I’ve found that my head is full of plenty of undeveloped ideas about many different topics. I’ve learned that on almost all subjects that I haven’t thoroughly examined, I have large holes and gaps in the path which leads to the conclusions I’ve formed about those subjects.

I’ve often said that you don’t truly learn something till you teach it, but before you can teach it, the thought must be refined in your own head.

mp900448451 thumb Have Strong Convictions, But Hold on to Them LooselySometimes I like to think of my blog as a place where I am teething on my own thoughts. It’s often a painful process that takes a long time, until finally the enamel of a fully formed hardened idea erupts from my skull.

I’ve found that as I do blog, I start to really refine my thoughts about a subject and develop strong convictions on that subject.

Holding them loosely

I’ve come up with a saying that explains quite a bit about me.

I have strong convictions which are loosely held.

At first, this might seem like a contradiction, how loosely can you hold convictions that are strong, or how strong can they be if they are loosely held?

To me, the answer lies in the alternative. How useful is it to have weak convictions about things? To me having a weak conviction is akin to not having thought long and hard enough about a subject to form a strong conviction.

As for holding onto that conviction loosely. I basically say that I reserve the right to change my mind. There is no point in holding onto any conviction tightly, because that conviction’s soundness should be based on logic and reasoning. When that conviction’s foundation fails, so falls the conviction.

I try to live my life adhering to this principle. This is one of the reasons why you’ll find some of my posts contradictory. I’ll start out being sure of one thing, but a year later, I’ll be convinced of just the opposite.  You, as a reader, are watching me grow.

Now, some people might say this makes me a waffler and unsteady, but I think I’d rather be called either of those than be stubborn or wishy-washy.  I don’t see that there is a middle ground in this area.

Personal reference

Another of my personal favorite bloggers, Scott Hanselman, often talks about using his blog as a personal reference of sorts.

mp900439550 thumb Have Strong Convictions, But Hold on to Them Loosely

I also tend to think of and use my blog in that way.

There are many times when I do a search on my own blog to either look for a solution to a problem that I can’t recall, or to find out why I did a certain thing a certain way.  I find the blog not only captures the solution, but how and why I was thinking about a particular problem or technology.

Sometimes I just search my blog to find out what the heck I was thinking at a particular time or to self-check my progression through time to see if the present me has gained any wisdom over the past me.

In that same regard, I find that perusing my early posts is often a humbling experience. It is good to humble yourself every once in a while. It is much better to do it yourself than to have someone else do it for you. I try to remember that.

Also this reference often comes in handy when needing to quickly explain my thoughts on a matter to someone without having to try and rehash it right there on the spot. In a discussion or in answer to a question, I can often give someone a link to a blog post I have written on a subject which gives a detailed explanation of my thoughts on that subject.

Career and opportunity

I’d be lying and doing you a great disservice in representing the truth, if I tried to claim that none of my motivation for blogging comes from my own material gain.

Now I don’t get paid to blog—and I assure you when you click on one of my few Amazon associate links, I don’t get paid anything more than it basically costs to host this blog—but I cannot tell you how this blog has helped my career and opened opportunities which I would have never had before.

mp900448691 thumb Have Strong Convictions, But Hold on to Them Loosely

I’ve always felt that a blog is far better than any resume. Want to know what I think on a subject or my knowledge on an particular area? Search my blog. What to see if I am consistent or if I am actually improving my skills and learning anything over time?  Check my blog.

With a traditional resume, we are often constrained to what can fit on a page or two. It is very difficult for me to explain the totality of my experience and journey as a developer in two pages, especially when I have to cram 50 keywords in there as well so that it doesn’t get filtered out by resume scanning software.

Now, not every prospective employer will look at my blog, but the ones that do and really take it into account are much more likely to be the ones that I would like to work for anyway.

Aside from just W-2 or salaried income, I feel that my blog is a launching point for so many other opportunities. Through my blog I’ve gotten opportunities to meet people I would never have met before, invitations to speak at various events, invitations to write books and plenty of opportunities to train on consult.

I’ve also found that my blog is a great medium for conveying ideas or viewpoints sometimes subtly to coworkers or management. It’s not always easy to come right out and say something, and often that approach is not best anyway.

Posting a blog post on a subject affords me the opportunity to really think about an idea and to make sure my ideas are well baked before they are presented. It also assures that my message will be heard and digested instead of quickly reacted to.

One of the main reasons I blog is that I am planting seeds that will grow my professional career. I like that idea. It makes me feel like I am building something that has lasting value rather than just getting work done for the day.

A sounding board

Often my blog serves the purpose of checking my ideas against reality. It is amazing what kind of crazy notions you can come up with just thinking about ideas in your head.

I’ve often posted on certain topics, because I am not sure what I think or I have an idea of something and I want to get a gauge from the general community if my idea makes any sense outside my head.

I’ve had plenty of posts where I’ve learned much more from the comments than I have in preparing the post. (Although sometimes it is a painful process to do so.)

Learning to write

mp900443125 thumb Have Strong Convictions, But Hold on to Them LooselyI’ve also found that my blog is a great way to learn to write.

When I look back on my earliest posts, I can definitely see a progression in my writing skills.

Writing is an important skill in just about any career, since we are always communicating our ideas.

I’ve found that the ability to effectively communicate ideas in writing ties directly to my ability to communicate ideas in all other mediums as well.

Writing, to me, is an exercise in thinking. The more I write, the better I learn to think and to express my thoughts.

So the next time you read one of my blog posts and you think "hey, that guy doesn’t know what he is talking about." you are probably right!

Remember, I am just teething on my thoughts; I may come to a completely different conclusion tomorrow or next year.

Feel free to set me straight, I won’t be offended.

  • http://matiaskorndev.wordpress.com/ matiaskorn

    And another point is that you can better remember a solution, by writing it down. Many of the reasons that you cover, is also the reason that i am strongly considering to start writing a blog. Even though that the first couple of years it probably will be crap, because of my knowledge, writing skills and experience.

    • http://simpleprogrammer.com jsonmez

      Good point. The very act of putting something down on paper or digital paper seems to cause us to recall it more clearly in the future.

    • http://gravatar.com/johnbloom johnbloom

      matiaskorn,
      I think that you will get better faster than a few years. Blog about the simple things. There is a huge range of people just getting started programming and they need simple posts to get them going.

      I just started a blog about writing a Windows 8 app in C++. I dont know C++ and I haven’t written a Windows 8 app before. Blogging is forcing me to move methodically through the process of making the app and I hope that it will be a help to those who come after me. Since I dont know the langues or the platform my blog my touch topics that someone with experience wouldn’t think to blog about.

      • http://matiaskorndev.wordpress.com/ matiaskorn

        Thanks for that one, that gave me some ideas :)

  • http://andrewartajos.wordpress.com andrewartajos

    I do like your blog and the general theme of simpleprogrammer.

    • http://simpleprogrammer.com jsonmez

      Thank you.

  • http://gravatar.com/mjwhelan Michael Whelan

    Thanks for this post John. It really sums up a lot of reasons why I’m wanting to start a blog and adds a few more. In particular, I agree that a blog is far better than a resume and find the two page CV very limiting.

    On a separate note, I just watched your Inversion of Control video for Pluralsight and have just started the Selenium one and am finding them both very useful.

    • http://simpleprogrammer.com jsonmez

      Thanks. Glad the post was helpful to you and the courses. :)

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  • johnbloom

    Great post. I think about these things a lot. I began to realize the importance of writing things down when I began to reference my own StackOverflow questions.

  • http://genehughson.wordpress.com Gene Hughson

    When I first started out, I was fortunate to be a member of a very active mailing list that allowed me to get ideas out of my head and into a forum where I’d get useful feedback (including the critical bits). Although lists have waned in popularity, the concept has migrated on to other fora and remains important. The more active the learning (and I can’t think of much more active than putting an idea out and then defending it), the more you either confirm your understanding or realize your error. Great post.

  • http://gravatar.com/cirellolaranjo cirellolaranjo

    That’s why I still following this blog: You have no answers. I am tired of people full of answers. Wisdom is doubt.

  • http://twitter.com/WorldsOfWeird Worlds Of Weird (@WorldsOfWeird)

    I have been wanting to start a development blog for so long, thanks for the thorough list of benefits; a great motivation!!!

  • http://www.itworksonmymachine.co.uk Akash Chopra

    I agree with your “strong convictions” quote, but it is not new: http://bobsutton.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/07/strong_opinions.html

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  • http://twitter.com/kutupla Gustavo Soto (@kutupla)

    i really like your point of view about having strong convictions. i use one of my own and it says: My opinions may have changed, but not the fact that i am right.
    When you look back to your older posts and say “why in earth did i think like that” remember that there were certain circumstances in the past that led you to think in that way, and under those circumstances, you were trully right. You may not think like that now because you have another point of view to see those facts and i believe it is a good exercise that everyone should practice in order to mature.