Today we are able to read countless personal blogs on the internet. However, it’s important to remember that readers don’t consume blogs like they might a book or a magazine article. More often than not, a reader will probably find a blog they enjoy, bookmark it, and return every once in a while to see if there is anything new or useful.
Many believe that a blog is like a public diary. However, there are a number of reasons why a blogger shouldn’t use their blog in this way. The simplest and most succinct is that most people lead relatively boring lives.
The real reason that a person visits a blog is for information or a unique perspective on a topic that they couldn’t find in more traditional media.
However, even when/if the blogger adopts this perspective it will be hard to grow a real audience or monetize their blog. From a strictly economic perspective, blogging is a terrible idea.
The real reason that you should start and maintain a blog is that it is an excellent tool for learning about one topic or set of topics. By choosing an area and writing about it consistently, the you will continuously hone in and sharpen your thinking. If you persist long enough, then you will begin to see connections between these topics and gradually refine your views.
A Note on Personal Diaries
A personal diary cannot replace a blog because it isn’t public. When you write for a public audience there is pressure to improve your writing, learn more about a topic, and be consistent.
In many ways, blogging is similar to participating in a potluck dinner. After bringing a few unappetizing dishes to a party, you start to realize that people are making subtle judgements about you and it would be in your best interest if you learned how to prepare something that is both visually appealing and delicious.
Blogging leverages social pressure to create learning opportunities in a way that would be impossible for personal diaries. I’m passionate about this “carrot and stick” approach to learning and I think you should be too. It’s free, relatively simple, and full of specific learning benefits.
5 Specific Learning Benefits
I like to think of my blog as a learning laboratory. It’s a place for me to test out new ideas and teach others about things that I have learned. The following points are five ways in which I have and you can leverage blogging as a learning tool.
- Improving Writing Skills
The most important skill for a blogger is the ability to write clearly and concisely. Bloggers who continue the practice of posting on a regular schedule develop an understanding of how to write and structure a post. To draw on our metaphor of potluck dinners, bloggers learn to cook through social pressure.
Beyond understanding the mechanics of writing, bloggers learn what an audience is and how to write for their target audience. The ability to identify your audience and write effectively for them is a very useful skillset.
- Developing Expertise in Area
Blogging also helps you to develop expertise in an area of interest. This discovery process is often done first through writing, but will eventually branch out into other methods of research like reading, conversations with others, and seeking out experiences.
For me, living in China is obviously something that I find incredibly interesting. However, blogging has allowed me to discover that I’m even more interested in learning about Mandarin, translation, and educational technologies.
When I first started blogging, I wrote about general culture stuff. But by continuously writing and posting, I’ve managed to channel my interests and develop something of an expertise around related-subjects.
- Improve Organization Skills
For most people, maintaining a blog is a one-person job. This means that bloggers need to understand and implement systems for writing, idea generation, managing online accounts, publishing schedules, and many other tasks.
Blogging is actually something that can become very unhealthy because there is no one managing your time but you. In this light, learning how to manage a personal blog is good practice in both self-discipline and being honest with yourself.
For example, there was a period of time when I tried to post a every other day. I even went for a month long period of posting everyday. However, at this time I had a full-time job and my schedule became incredibly stressful.
Today I have a realistic schedule and process that works for me because I’ve developed the necessary organizational skills. Without these skills and realistic expectations, I wouldn’t be able to blog consistently.
- Learn More About the Internet
Blogging provides many opportunities to better understand how the internet works. Many of the technical skills needed to develop and maintain a blog are related to the internet broadly and web development specifically. In modern society, these are very valuable skills.
It might not seem like blogging is very technical, but it absolutely can be. The low-threshold of technical competence required to start blogging is one reason why it’s a great way to learn more in these areas.
For example, I started my journey on a free blog hosted by WordPress. Eventually, I moved to my own domain and server space using the WordPress platform because I wanted more options for customization. This process has provided many opportunities for developing technical skills.
- Learn through Social Engagement
Lastly, blogging increases the blogger’s opportunities for social engagement around the chosen topic. This social engagement is a powerful tool for learning, as it often leads the blogger to new ideas and perspectives.
How does this happen? Blogs have built in social capabilities like comment sections. Posts are also often shared on social media, where the blogger can be messaged directly. Writing and posting useful information free of charge is an inherently generous act, and people generally respond positively in kind.
In my blogging journey, I’ve also found that people like to talk about my posts face to face, as well as online. Of course, these people often teach me something new and useful during the course of our interaction. This social engagement, brought about by blogging, is a another compelling use case for how blogs can be leveraged as a learning tool.
The traditional view of blogs is that they are good marketing tools, however I encourage readers to think of this alternative view. Blogs can be great tools for learning. Whether the blogger is a student, professional, or retiree, the we can leverage blogs to learn more about the world around us.