One thing has become quite clear to me in the last week, but I hadn't been sufficiently motivated to write anything about it until now. It's a revelation I had recently. One that should have come about 14 months ago when Jon Udell first suggested I "get involved" in the weblog community. Jon's always had the ability to see these things before most of us, so I don't feel so bad.
Anyway, it had absolutely nothing to do with the technology. It was this simple realization:
Weblogs are powerful.
Yup, that's it.
By "powerful" I don't necessarily mean "good." There are times when weblogs have negative consequences in addition to the positive ones we normally associate with blogging. Take for example, the fact that Chi-Chu Tschang was fired from Bloomberg for his blog (thanks to Dan Gillmor, another journalist blogger, for the pointer).
And even though I've not discussed it before and will not go into any detail, suffice it to say that people at work have noticed my blog on more than one occasion. While there weren't happy about it, they had the integrity to bring it up with me.
It's no coincidence that roughly 6 months ago, In a post titled "Would you change your blogging habits if..." I wrote:
Would you blog differently? Shy away from criticizing your employer? Purposely avoid work-related topics?
The most interesting responses that post generated were those that arrived via private e-mail, never to be posted in a public forum. There were some compelling, surprising, and even scary stories.
What's that old saying?
With power comes responsibility.
Yup, that's it.
Despite the occasional work vs. blog conflicts that may arise, weblogs are generally quite positive. The good outweighs the bad 95% of the time. They open up so many doors.
I can no longer keep track of the number of great people I've "met" as the result of having a weblog. I can no longer count the number of times someone I've met at work, a conference, or even the gliderport who said "Hey, I read your blog!" I have no idea how many times a post on someone's blog has taught me something important or saved me countless hours of time.
Over the last year, I've seen many of my friends and co-workers start weblogs of their own. A surprisingly high percentage of them have stuck with it and appear to also be reaping benefits.
It's really quite amazing, now that I think about it. And looking ahead to the next 12-18 months, I only see it getting better and better. Services like TypePad are coming on-line to bring a whole new class of users (the non-geeks) into the fold. It's just going to get easier and easier to mine the riches of the social networks we're building.
Of course, the fact that you're even reading this probably means I'm preaching to the choir.
Life's funny that way.