Five years of blogging… Sort of

It has been five years since my first post on Feb. 18, 2006. In a way it’s the 5-year anniversary for this blog, but I haven’t really been writing as frequently lately as I should be in order to claim that legitimately. This is my first post in 2011!

So to celebrate, I’m raiding the archives and taking a stroll down memory lane.

Google Docs to surpass Office in a year: Google Docs has made great strides, but it still didn’t really happen, did it? A great alternative though for the cash-strapped with basic needs.

Why your organization should be using open document standards: What can I say, I’m a standards kinda guy. I still strongly believe in open standards, but I’ve also become pretty enamored with the XML-based formats for Office. Such small file sizes compared to the old binary formats!

Return to blogging: Ah my initial return from hiatus. I left public accounting and took a year long sabbatical to strike out into the world of internal audit. A year later, I knew everything there was to know and returned to share my knowledge. (Kidding!)

Today I am a CA: This is what I’d been working toward and blogging about since the beginning, and it was a very proud day to announce it to my readers! Next up: Certified Internal Auditor!

Here’s the hoping I blog more frequently over the next five years. Thanks for being a part of it.

Return to blogging

Greetings RSS subscribers who never got around to deleting me from their feed readers! It has been exactly one year since I announced my hiatus from blogging. I’m back!

A year ago I had broken free of the shackles of public accounting and taken on a new challenge in internal audit at a global building materials company. My adventures over the past year will provide the material for many blog posts in the future.

As well, the world was a much different place a year ago. Credit had already begun drying up, but things hadn’t quite gone completely sideways yet. Risky, greed-driven lending, opaque, incomprehensible derivatives, and the absence of my unique take on accounting have led to housing, credit and banking crises, plunging the entire world into recession.

The FASB is expertly highlighting its growing irrelevance by agreeing to change mark-to-market to mark-to-sorta-market-but-not-really-because-banks-don’t-like-having-to-write-down-their-worthless-derivatives-to-fair-value. Because letting powerful bankers and the supine politicians beholden to them determine accounting standards is a great idea.

In short, I’m returning to blogging during an interesting time.

The tumblelog

If you’re subscribed to my RSS feed, you don’t need to check the site itself to receive any updates I make in terms of posts (or comments, made by everyone, in the case of the comments RSS feed). In that case, you may not have noticed yet that I’ve added a new “section” of sorts to the site. The section is actually a link to my relatively new tumblelog, hosted by Tumblr.

A tumblelog, and tumblelogging, is a new concept that takes blogging down its most basic level. Posts are usually quite short, and as a result you get more of them. Posts sort of “tumble” out in their raw form. Tumblr features support for picture, video, link, conversation and quote posts, but some custom tumblelogs have expanded on those categories and include definition and audio posts, to name a few.

What’s the point of a tumblelog, especially if one already has a blog? Two reasons:

  1. It allows me to share links and stuff that interest me outside the scope of this blog.
  2. It’s easy to update frequently, whereas the blog requires some time and thought to prepare a good post.
  3. I see the tumblelog as being a complement to the blog. Different topics, but also a wider variety of media.

So have a look and be sure to let me know what you think.

Develop a corporate blogging policy

There are few golden examples of corporate blogging policies that provide employees useful and necessary guidance on what they can blog about and how they should do it as it relates to company information.

Sun Microsystems logoSun Microsystems stands out as a company that actively encourages their employees to engage each other and the wider tech world in conversations about Sun’s products. They also lay their blogging policy out in clear, understandable language.

Common sense at work here; it’s perfectly OK to talk about your work and have a dialog with the community, but it’s not OK to publish the recipe for one of our secret sauces. There’s an official policy on protecting Sun’s proprietary and confidential information, but there are still going to be judgment calls. […] There are all sorts of laws about what we can and can’t say, business-wise. Talking about revenue, future product ship dates, roadmaps, or our share price is apt to get you, or the company, or both, into legal trouble.

I recommend reading the full policy. It’s not just a list of restrictions. Sun has also provided helpful tips to any employees interested in getting started blogging, but not really up to speed on the phenomenon.

IBM logoContrast Sun’s policy with IBM’s and Sun’s starts to look mighty folksy. IBM’s is much, much longer, less easily read and understood, and probably more difficult to follow for employees. If I were IBM, I would simplify. The best blogging is concise and to the point, and so should any policy governing it.

Some more examples:

The IBM policy is interesting though since IBM is now a consulting company and they handle client information as well as their own proprietary data, much like accounting firms.

Protect IBM’s clients, business partners and suppliers. Clients, partners or suppliers should not be cited or obviously referenced without their approval. On your blog, never identify a client, partner or supplier by name without permission and never discuss confidential details of a client engagement. It is acceptable to discuss general details about kinds of projects and to use non-identifying pseudonyms for a client (e.g., Client 123) so long as the information provided does not violate any non-disclosure agreements that may be in place with the client or make it easy for someone to identfy the client. Furthermore, your blog is not the place to “conduct business” with a client.

Accounting firms should be proactive about setting a blogging policy, and encourage their knowledge workers to embrace the medium.

The value of blog postings and comments

It was a long time ago in internet years that I started reading Dave Winer‘s blog, Scripting News, and even longer since I started reading Jakob Nielsen‘s writings on his site, useit.com. These two are truly pioneers of the digital age, with Winer instrumental in the development and promotion of RSS and Nielsen writing the book(s) on web usability.

Winer recently discussed why he doesn’t allow comments on his blog, which morphed into a full-blown examination of whether the ability to comment on posts is what defines a blog.

Do comments make it a blog? Do the lack of comments make it not a blog? Well actually, my opinion is different from many, but it still is my opinion that it does not follow that a blog must have comments, in fact, to the extent that comments interfere with the natural expression of the unedited voice of an individual, comments may act to make something not a blog.

He makes a compelling argument, as previously I was in the camp that believed a blog must have comments, else it was but a mere shadow of a ‘true’ blog. His main point was that everyone can comment on what he writes by linking to it on their own blog, rather than appending their thoughts to the end of his post. Those responses are much more valuable and meaningful, since it will filter out the abusive comments and be more constructive.

Jacok Nielsen’s latest article talked about (to be blunt) how useless most of the blogs out there are because they rarely, if ever, offer something new and valuable to their readers. Most blogs just link to the interesting stuff, and Jakob was lamenting the fact that so few blogs make the effort to create the interesting stuff rather than just linking to it.

Blog postings will always be commodity content: there’s a limit to the value you can provide with a short comment on somebody else’s work. Such postings are good for generating controversy and short-term traffic, and they’re definitely easy to write. But they don’t build sustainable value.

This one really had me thinking for days last week about what I’d done with my blog since February 2006, whether I was creating sustainable value with it, and what I could improve or change to make the stuff I write better. I like to think with this blog it’s a mix of short-term, newsy posts and long-term stuff that would continue to attract readers long after it vacated the home page.

I did a lot of thinking this week about where I want this domain to go in the future and how it was going to get there, and where it has already been and how that turned out compared to my expectations. You’ll probably begin to see the results of my meditations very soon, as I transform this space into something more representative of my various interests.