Learn by blogging about it

To say the internet provides a revolutionary amount of information quickly and easily is a tremendous understatement. When I sit back and look at how I acquire information now compared to how I did it back in the pre-internet days the changes are profound. What is interesting for me is that fully half of the guidance I obtain these days comes from the tips, rants and raves of people that simply use products the way I do. They just happened to get there before me and were kind enough to write it all down.
When I started this blog a part of me was motivated by a need to add to that collective of information. Basically I wanted to give a little back to that giant interwebs resource. My thought was that I would share the experience from the very beginning of adopting a Macintosh as a new platform. I would write about it as my experience with the machine unfolded, giving people a play by play as I went.
A funny thing happened…
I have several friends that switched to Macs well before I did. What was interesting to me is that many of them would come to me and say "Wow, I didn’t know that!" when I discover a feature, product or tip. In the past when I learned a new technology I had a tendency to get to a level where it accomplished just what I needed and then I would stop striving to learn more. All too often I have used only 50% of the capabilities of some powerful tool or device because I only learned enough on the surface level to get by for the task at hand.
I wasn’t really advancing my use of technology – I was merely adapting a different technology to the way I always did things. I would look to something and simply say "I used to perform this action with the old stuff – how do I do that with my new stuff"? I learned on a need to know basis.
This blog changed that model for me. Suddenly the blog was all the motivation I needed to dig a little deeper, to find that little tidbit of information that would help me embrace the technology a little better. Once my blog started to become a little more popular I suddenly found lots of people that would read what I wrote and offer up some deeper information on the area I was exploring. Here I am only 3 1/2 months into owning Macs instead of Windows machines and I feel like I have an incredibly detailed understanding of how the machine works and how I can best leverage it. I still have a lot to learn but I’m significantly further along than I would be if I just approached it as a 1 for 1 replacement challenge.
Overcoming Fear
One of the concerns I had about writing this blog and sharing my n00bish learning experiences was how much of my life I really wanted to make public. I’ve always had an overdose of self-confidence (I am an entrepreneur after all) and writing about something I knew little about was going to be a challenge. Did I really want to expose how dumb I could be?
While I have taken a few hits from the usual people that populate the interwebs and spew crap at will, they have been few and far between. Instead I have been lucky enough to get some really nice people to participate and provide information that has helped me tremendously and add to that collective of data for others to leverage.
Blogging isn’t for everyone
It does require a commitment to stay engaged to the people that read your blog. I try to respond to any comments people leave and always reply to e-mails sent to me. It’s really not all that much work. You also have to be able to write clearly, though as you may have noticed with my blog, my writing is very informal and conversational. I find it easier for people to read that way and a lot easier for me to create.
If you do want to learn a new technology really, really well try blogging about it. Blogger accounts like the one I use for this blog are free and you can create one pretty quickly. Not only will you learn a lot about the topic you write about you will also be giving back to the great knowledge store that is the interwebs.
Scott Hanselman is one of my favorite bloggers. Though he writes primarily about developing using Microsoft .NET products his posts on blogging are pure gold for anyone that is interested in starting up a blog. If you develop using Microsoft tools he is a must read – add him to your RSS feed ASAP if he’s not already there.
If someone told me six months ago that I would be blogging on nearly a daily basis and really enjoying it I would have laughed in their faces. Then again, I probably would have laughed even harder if they would have told me then that I would also soon be leaving Windows for Macintosh.