My son was visiting from Ottawa over the holidays, and, at dinner last night, the topic of my blogging set off a chain of such penetrating questions that I was given to wonder who was parenting whom.
“Do you have any way of telling your readers that you’ve posted a new blog?”
“No. Someone used to tweet about it, but not any more.”
“It seems weird to be sending a message that says nothing other than, ‘hey, pay attention to what I’m saying.’”
“So, if you don’t care if anyone is reading, why do you blog? You seem to work pretty hard at it.”
This is a question that I’ve tried to answer every year about this time. I look back and wonder what the blog was about, and whether it’s suitable for a cultural consulting web site. The year-end blogs tend to offer generalities about subject matter and reader interest, with some post facto rationale for how they relate to the work of NetGain.
My son was asking me to think about it from the beginning and look forward. He was questioning my motive, since none of the usual motives for blogging seemed to fit my behavior. This struck me as a better starting point for a discussion of what the blog is about, why I do it, and why it’s mounted on the NetGain site, instead of a personal site like all the other cranky, unread, whackadoos.
First, I disagreed that it was hard work. It takes time and effort, but it’s actually a relief to express the views I must suppress in the conduct of my professional work. Second, beyond therapy for me, it’s part of a strategy recommended by Robin Uchida to prepare prospective clients and colleagues for a sometimes-passionate point of view, where professional indifference is the norm. And, third, the topics do relate to the essence of NetGain’s practice.
Often, I draft a post while having coffee early in the morning. Then, back at the office, Emily decides whether it’s worthy of posting, adds some links and commentary of her own, tags some references and puts it up. I often don’t know it’s posted until she tells me, and usually have no idea what it looks like unless I visit the site on my own.
I do it because it clears my mind, allowing me to focus on client needs in the way clients need me to – with a clear mind. If I’m frustrated or angry by a misdirected decision-making process in government or business, I can evince the NetGain approach or position in the way I reframe the problem and suggest a better course of action. By doing it in the blog instead of in my consulting practice, I forewarn prospective clients about our perspective, and preserve enough of my sanity to help clients wresting with problems that relate in some way to the blog topics.
My fuller answer to my son is that broad readership is incidental. We get relatively few people, reading relatively many pages, for a relatively long time. That’s preferably to getting many people scarcely stopping to read anything, which is what most websites attract.
It’s early in the new year again, so I might as well make this note double for my year end summary. In 2017, as in all previous years, the blog was about how we, in groups, make decisions about how we’ll manage our shared lives, where I think we’ve gone wrong, and how we can do better. The issues arise right under my feet, and are indeed rumbling beneath the surface of everyone’s lives, despite the temptation to ignore them.
Every topic is actually about something more substantive. It’s about how we choose to live. How our democracy functions affects how our children will live. How we spend on infrastructure, like transit, affects how we share land, how we distribute wealth and opportunity, and how we preserve what’s left of the natural environment. Public policy is reflective of who we are and what we believe. It’s not just about optimizing material benefit, looking after our own, and surpassing rival jurisdictions. Power and money rise and fall in opportunities to make a difference, and we can’t rely uncritically on institutional systems to produce the best result for the most people.
That makes the blog sound grander than it is. It’s probably more truthful to characterize it as a way to protect the people in Doug’s world from enduring obsessive chatter about his daily dissatisfaction with things as they are. Seriously, if you want to send me into a rage, just repeat meaningless tautologies like, “it is what it is,” or, “that’s just how it’s done,” as a way of abdicating responsibility to identify defects and consider improvements.
So, when I wish you a Happy New Year, it’s with the caveat that I may cause you some misery on the way to finding your bliss. But I deeply want you to get there, and am always looking for the shortest route. It’s the NetGain way.
Happy New Year.