In the first part of this week’s documentation series we covered documentation in the traditional sense. In today’s lesson we’re going to talk about a new avenue which many are using as a sort of documentation repository and that is the personal tech blog.
Now I could use this lesson as an entire post on how to get started blogging but I won’t. Instead I will re-direct you to professor Brent Ozar’s series on How to Start a Blog. Consider that your homework assignment for this class. So if I’m not going to talk about starting a blog then what are we going to discuss? How about the significance of blogging or writing for your own personal development and growth? I’m very fortunate in that I have managed to have Tom LaRock (Blog | Twitter) as part of the faculty and this semester he is playing the role of DBA Coach and he touches on some of these points in this week’s lesson as well.
So this is documentation week, what does that have to do with blogging? Well, let’s say you’re a small company. You’re the one-man show in the IT department (in fact, you ARE the IT department). Since you’re tasked with trying to do anything and everything it gets really tough to remember how you fixed that one problem on that one system many months ago. Now since you’re just one person, chances are you don’t have something like Track-It! or CA Service Desk to log trouble tickets and create a knowledgebase with. So what do you do? Well you can hope you can remember everything or you can start documenting these things. A blog is a great place to document these issues as you can easily refer back to them at a later time. There are plenty of free blogging platforms out there such as Blogger or WordPress that make starting one a breeze. In addition to making it easy, they provide plenty of tools to help you get started. For me, I started on Blogger as the interface was extremely user-friendly and since I already had a Google account I was up and running in a matter of minutes. In addition to nice tools for content creation, you have nice built-in search tools so if you’re somewhere and need to look up ‘arcserve fix’, your site is already to receive that query and find the posts for you that fulfill that request.
Since your blog is public (by default but you can make it private if need be), search engines such as Google and Bing can index it. The power behind this is that sometime, somewhere somebody is running in to the same issue as you. And when that happens, what’s the first thing people do? They Boogle the problem. And if you’re thinking “I’m running some obscure software that nobody else runs” then all the more reason to blog your solutions for the world because I guarantee you that a company wasn’t formed, developed a software package and sold one and only copy of it (unless this is stricly a custom homegrown app but you know what I mean). How many times have you done a search for something and you get the dreaded ‘no results found’ page? Well aren’t you glad that everytime you search for something and hits are returned that you have something to go to? Well, now you can help seed that global knowledgebase! Best part about having it public is that if you’re a consultant (or at a relative’s house which you inevitably get sucked into helping because you’re the “computer” guru of the family) you can always get to what you need from your site. Also helps when referring others. Let’s say you get asked about a particular issue all the time. Instead of having to answer each email individually, and having that siphon your time, just write up a post addressing the issue and direct folks there. Eventually when they see you have something to offer they’ll keep coming back, you keep writing and everybody wins!
For Friday’s class I’ll be talking about tools to help you in your documentation efforts. In the meantime make sure you read the assigned reading from above and see you guys at the next lesson!