"I blog to pay it forward"

Posted by Andy Cotgreaveon January 31, 2014

This is my final post about blogging this month. I hope you’ve been inspired to start your own! In case you’ve not been following the series, we’ve looked at new data blogs, how to setup a blog (the full monty and the in just 3 minutes) and some stories about how people (Emily Kund and Andy Kriebel) get into blogging.

In this post, I want to post on some wisdom from some of our most well-known bloggers. I spoke to Kelly Martin (VizCandy), Jonathan Drummey (Drawing With Numbers), Russell Christopher (tableaulove).

Why did you start to blog?

Kelly Martin says it was a way to share help as she got inundated with questions at work. She’s targeting “the folks who are the backbone of many organizations’ information needs; they rarely get supported by tech, in fact, they often have to work around it.”

One of the things that keeps her going is the community: “it is truly amazing – full of kind, respectful, non-competitive folks who believe that everyone gains (personally and professionally) when we work together and learn from each other.”

Russell Christopher’s motivation is a little more simple: “Good citizenship: If I can do something that makes the life of another user easier, I should.”

Jonathan Drummey wants to “pay it forward.” He learn so much from blogs when he was starting out that he wants to do that for others. He also focusses on the importance of contributing to community: “Tableau community doesn't ‘just happen’, it depends on active participation, and we get to help define what that participation is.”

The final point mentioned by these contributors and also by others I know is career development. It happened to me. It happened to Ben Jones. And lots of other people: if you want to get noticed, you gotta have a blog! If you were recruiting for a Tableau post, what is more authentic: a well-worded resume or a respected presence amongst a community?

What have you learnt through blogging?

For Kelly, it’s made her a better presenter and kept up her writing skills. She says, “Mostly I’ve learned how to better explain something for different types of learners.”

I also run a blog, (GravyAnecdote.com). In the three years I have been blogging, I've learnt ways to get things done quickly. Writing a blog post does take time, don't pretend it doesn't. You might have the viz ready, and an explanation in your head, but turning it into something that makes sense to others is a skill you develop over time. That is a reusable skill in other walks of life.

I've also learnt that not every blog is a "hit" with an audience. That's not a problem: I recommend you write from your heart every time. My posts generally come about when I have something I want to get off my chest. That might be an exciting thing I've learnt, or a mini-rant, or a desire to share something I'm proud of.

What would you say to others thinking of starting a blog?
I’ll leave the final words to Kelly:
“I would and have recommended that other people start a blog. It’s a great way to grow your skills with Tableau, connect with like-minded oddball analytical geeks, and show others your learning process. Everyone hits different peaks in their learning curve and sharing this through blogging is a great way to get feedback or support to help you over your next hump.”
We hope this month of posts about data blogs has inspired you. Now. What are you waiting for? Get blogging! Beginner, expert, artist, data scientist: you are ALL welcome!

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