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Friday Philosophy – Blogging Style and Aim August 12, 2011

Posted by mwidlake in Blogging, Friday Philosophy.
Tags: , ,

I’ve recently looked back at some of my earlier blog postings and also some notes I made at the time I started. I had a few aims at the start, pretty much in this order:

  • A place to put all those Oracle thoughts and ideas, for my own benefit
  • Somewhere to record stuff that I keep forgetting
  • I’d started commenting on other blogs and felt I was maybe too verbal on them
  • To increase my profile within the Oracle community
  • To share information, because I’m quite socialist in that respect
  • To learn more

It very quickly morphed into something slightly different though.

Firstly, it is not really somewhere that I record thoughts and ideas or where I record stuff that I forget. When I am busy, I sometimes only get half way to the bottom of resolving an issue or understanding some feature of Oracle. I tend to create little documents about them but I can lose track of them. I initially intended to put these on my blog. The thing is though, I don’t feel I can blog about them because I might be wrong or I raise more questions than I answer. I don’t think a public blog about technology is a good place to have half-baked ideas and I certainly don’t want people:

  1. reading and believing something that is wrong
  2. thinking I do not know what I am talking about
  3. seeing my rough notes as boy are they rough, often with naughty words in them and slang. Converting them to a familly-friendly format takes time. 

You see, there is the point about increasing my profile in the community. Part of me hates the conceit that you have to be seen as all-knowing or never wrong, as no one is all-knowing and never wrong. In fact, I think most of us find it hard to like people who put themselves as such.  But if I put out a blog saying “it works this way” and I am wrong or I simply say it in a clumsy way or I assume some vital prior knowledge, I could be making people’s lives harder not easier, so I spend a lot of effort testing and checking. It takes me a lot, lot longer to prepare a technical blog than I ever thought it would before I started. And yes, I accept I will still get it wrong sometimes.

Another consideration is that I make my living out of knowing a lot about Oracle. If I post a load of blogs saying something like “gosh I wish I understood how Oracle locks parts of the segment as it does an online table rebuild and handles the updates that happen during it”, then I obviously don’t know about that. Or I put out a post about how I currently think it works and I’m wrong. Tsch, I can’t be that good! How much should I have to think about how I am selling myself as a consultant? There is a difference between being liked and being perceived as good at what you do. If you want someone to design a VLDB for you, you probably don’t care if s/he is a nice person to spend an evening in the pub with – but you certainly care if they seem to be fundamentally wrong about oracle partitioning.

Balancing that, if you saw my recent post on Pickler Fetch you will see that I was wrong about a couple of things and there was some stuff I did not know yet. But I learnt about those wrong things and lack of knowledge, so I feel good about that. That was one of my original aims, to learn. Not only by having to check what I did but by people letting me know when I was wrong.

What about style? I can be quite flippant and, oh boy, can I go on and on. I know some people do not like this and, if you want a quick solution to an oracle problem, you probably do not want to wade through a load of side issues and little comments. You just want to see the commands, the syntax and how it works. Well, that is what the manuals are for and there a lot of very good web sites out there that are more like that. If you do not like my verbose style then, hey that’s absolutely fine.  But I like to write that way and so I shall.

So after over 2 years of blogging, I seem to have settled into a style and my aims have changed.

  • I try to be helpful and cover things in detail.
  • I try to polish what I present a lot, lot more than I do for my own internal notes. Maybe too much.
  • I’m going to write in a long-winded way that some people will not enjoy but it is my style.
  • I’m going to try and worry less about looking perfect as I am not.

I suppose what I could do is start a second, private blog with my half-baked stuff on it. But I just don’t think I’ve got the time 🙂






1. Tim Hall - August 12, 2011


I always say you’ve got to write what makes you happy and bugger what other people say. It’s the only way you keep going.

Of course, I understand some people are worried about the impact on their careers etc. It’s never really been a concern of mine, hence the movie and book reviews. 🙂

Writing style is a very personal thing too. I am extremely brief in my articles. Other are extremely verbose. I guess people will gravitate to what suits them.

Regarding the half-notes etc. You could use private or password protected pages in WordPress, so these note are still on your blog, but only visible to you. That way, if they graduate to something complete, you can switch them to public



mwidlake - August 12, 2011

Hi Tim,

I nearly “copy-catted” you on the movie reviews for my Friday Philosophy this week! I saw “Avatar” for the first time and firmly placed it into the category style over substance. Oh, I enjoyed it but I pretty much knew what the whole plot was going to be by 5 minutes in.

As you say, people will got to the style they like. This is why I think it is fine to repeat good stuff other people have said (citation given of course) as there will be people who read your style and not the other. The good stuff should be there for all parts of the audience.

Private posts. Hmmmm, I use drafts for a similar purpose but that might be a better idea. Certainly easier to move things around than using different blogs? Thanks.

2. jgarry - August 12, 2011

You could throw out half-baked thoughts on cdos under a pseudonym, and let the jackals, er, other database professionals at them.

mwidlake - August 12, 2011

Err, thanks Joel. I’ll bear that in mind…

3. Gaius - August 14, 2011

I’ve noticed a funny thing about having a technical blog – having one at all is a strong social signal in terms of raising your profile in the community. The content seems to almost be secondary, in my experience. I suppose an analogy is universities – 90% of the social signal comes from getting into a prestigious university in the first place. If someone drops out of Harvard or Oxford or something, it still carries all the reputational association with it that actually graduating would…

mwidlake - August 14, 2011

I’m trying to decide if there is a not-too-subtle hint in there for me Gaius :-O
I think you have a point but I also think that most people draw a distinction between blogs that seem to be the odd half-considered post once every six months and those that have constant good material. I hope so!

Gaius - August 16, 2011

None that I was aware of when I wrote it! But now I am intrigued 😉

Blogs that are only updated every few months give the impression of being abandoned; I think that may be a worse signal than not having one at all! At least once a week I aim for, even if I’m only rambling.

mwidlake - August 16, 2011

“the content seems to almost be secondary…” 🙂

Gaius - August 16, 2011

Heh, that was referring to my blog being only vaguely related to what I actually do… Well, for now anyway 🙂

4. Kerry Osborne - August 15, 2011

My first goal when I started blogging was the same as yours. I wanted a place to keep notes for myself. My second goal was to have a place where I could share stuff without having to re-write an email for the 5th time. I have found that drafts work great for saving case studies and other notes for my own personal use. As long as they are not published, the general public won’t see them. I have many more unpublished posts than published ones now. And I have gotten to the point where I frequently search my own blog for stuff when I’m doing research. The posts that don’t get published are sometimes just notes on things I haven’t figured out yet but often are just things that I don’t think are interesting enough to spend the time cleaning up enough to publish . You might want to try creating posts that you don’t intend to publish as another way of organizing your notes. Just be careful not to hit the Publish button. 😉

5. Graham - August 16, 2011

I like your style, if only because it makes me feel that I’m in the pub listening to you, as opposed to the ‘substance only’ blogs that make me feel like I’m reading the docs… not that I’m knocking them, just that I take something different from each.

mwidlake - August 16, 2011

Now that is a nice way to think of it, thank you.
I wonder if I can enhance that “pub” feel, maybe insert some droll and cutting asides to represent certain Northern types, words of wisdom from lady developers, being thoroughly corrected by blokes with beards.. and of course spelling very poorly and using lots of capitals at the end, scattered in with naughty words…

6. Darryl Griffiths - August 16, 2011

Some blog love is in order.
For me, it’s never about the quantity, always the quality.
I think a good blog is one where the posts are referenceable over a long period of time because of the quality of information.
I don’t mind if it’s not written specifically for me. If I did, I wouldn’t read it.
I agree with the “second private blog” for scripts etc.
Usually I create lots of draft blog posts over time and then gradually update them and eventually post. I have probably 10 on the go.
My issue is how often should I post before people think I’ve gone dry… doesn’t that indicate I’m not doing it for myself? Not sure. Sharing is the key.

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