Blogging to Learn

Gina recently posted about blogging as a learning mechanism, a topic I’ve had sitting in my “write about this someday” queue for a while (originally motivated by this post on Coding Horror).  I was going to take a different spin on it, but her education-based look at the idea was a new angle for me and so I decided to run with it (plus she basically called all of us EMC bloggers out; I can’t ignore that!).

She asked three questions, which I’m answering in this post:

Do you use blogging as a reflective practice?

Reflective practice basically describes a self-feedback mechanism for learning.  There are two ways I can think of immediately where I make use of blogging in this way.  The first and most obvious is in the mechanical construction of a post.  Just by turning ideas into words I’ve forced myself to think about those ideas in new ways, and often the end result of a post bears little resemblance to the skeleton that I started with.  Clearly within the hours or days it took to create the post I’ve entered into a feedback loop, I’ve learned, I’ve refined my ideas, I’ve rejected ideas, I’ve come up with new ideas.

The less-obvious way is in the long term, where commentary and dialog centered around the practice of blogging (and being active in other social media) allow me to gather information and ideas which modify my own view of the world in small ways, which then impacts my contribution back to the community, which in turn changes the feedback I get from it.  This loop is much looser than in the prior example but it clearly exists, and is perhaps much richer than the first.

Do you blog about things that are directly related to your job duties?

I do, when I can.  The problem is that it’s hard to be topical about my duties while still being respectful of the privacy of my team, and the sensitive nature of some of the interesting things I would like to talk about.  As an example, I wrote a post about my struggles learning about management styles, and in it I mentioned a specific team member who helped me grow in this area.  Anything more specific than that, and I get nervous that I’m crossing some lines.  I could write a handful of posts about the struggles of taking over management of a pre-existing team, but to do so while respecting the privacy of the people on that team would be difficult, if not impossible.  In 2 or 3 years?  It might be a different story.  But I can, and do, write about the broad concerns of management, indirectly related to the things I experience in my day job.

Has blogging increased your level of understanding about your role, your organization, or your field of practice?

This is the hardest question to answer.  I’m forced to say that I’m not sure.  I have no doubt that I am better at my job because I blog, but that doesn’t mean I understand it more.  It just means I perform better.  I’m a better communicator, I have a larger network to tap for more assistance when it’s needed, and I’m exposed to more ideas so I am surprised less often.  But do I understand management better?  That’s a tricky question.  I’ll be interested to see what other people say in response to Gina’s questions.

1 comment so far ↓

#1 gminks on 12.02.08 at 8:59 am

Thanks Dave! You guys are keeping me on my toes as far as semantics go. Which is great for my feedback loop…