Why Blogging Is Good For You

This is my personal blog and does not represent the views of my employer.

In the early 2000s I recall being interviewed by WIRED and being misquoted. It made me feel a bit off-kilter because I knew I didn’t say what was being attributed to me. Around that time, there was a new system called “WordPress” that I downloaded and installed on my server at MIT. And I began to write what I say in my own words — it all felt quite liberating.

I try to read as much as I can on the Internet. When I do so, I find that perception and reality can differ a lot. But that’s because we’re all people making sense of what we feel around us — and we all interpret events differently. And we will all express those events a little differently, too. So inevitably “the telephone game” phenomenon occurs when the information travels from one person’s interpretation that is expressed and undestood by another person’s interpretation, and so forth. In the end, as a message is passed this way between five or more people, the accuracy of that message naturally deteriorates.

The ability to publish on one’s own has the ability to have one’s own words serve as a strong source of truth. There’s a problem when an interaction between two or more parties are expressed in different terms on their individual and separate single sources of truth (or “blogs”). Which blog should you believe?

Post-posting footnote: I’m a fan of passionate people who seek change. Because underlying the passion is usually a fundamental problem that absolutely needs to get addressed. Sometimes I’m better at fielding that passion in an open forum when I’m in a physical/mental condition to address it; and sometimes I’m not. The latter instance of this case happened yesterday where I was way, way underwater. But in hindsight that might have been the best thing because it reveals the extremes of how one’s actions can be perceived — especially m yown.

I’ve found in life that if you’re lucky to catch your breath later, you get the gift of being able to be reflective afterwards. Usually that’s seen as “too late” and “you should have known better in the moment” — but I don’t believe anything is ever too late when it comes to changing your resolve about one matter over the other. As a fan of renewal and change, I’m glad when I stumble because it gives me a reminder that I need to get back up again. So I feel lucky to be more awake than usual this morning — and especially thanks to one person’s passion grounded in the needs of many who need full attention. I’m so grateful to my colleague David Alan Kennedy for all of his ongoing coaching in a space where I know I need the most improvement. 2019 is still young, and I’m ready to see how it can be different now thanks to my unusual, timely, and important encounter yesterday.

Today I arrived in Seattle a little past midnight. I didn’t sleep well, and I had a variety of matters to tend to for work. My presentation wasn’t complete and I wasn’t sure if it would work out technically (I was going to screencast from an iPad) so I was in a rush to head out the door as the first speaker of the morning. I had four goals as I went to the lobby which needed to get done in the span of 70 minutes: 1/ meet with someone who I’d never met before, 2/ check out of the hotel and leave my bag, 3/ get to the venue to figure out whether my presentation would really work, 4/ grab some calories to eat as I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet.

As I was headed to the lobby from the 24th floor, a person got on around the 16th floor. They stepped closer to me and said they had come to the conference to talk with me as I had not been responsive to them online. For the record, I don’t engage people online because that can get quite unpredictable — so I’m generally a passive user. But they went on and said they wanted to talk with me at that moment, and they would walk with me to the venue. I shared that I was meeting someone in the lobby, and that I also had to checkout from the hotel so I was in a rush. There was a strong sense of disdain from this person that I was not going to change my direction the way they wanted. I knew something wasn’t right, but I needed to meet my obligations. They left me decidedly nonplussed and I kept my morning moving along.

I eventually got to the venue, and while there I felt lucky that my presentation would technically work out by directly tethering my iPad to my laptop via Quicktime Player — I was happy that the technical dimensions were resolved.

My next goal was to get some calories as the presentation time was upon me, and then I turned around at the podium and found the person from the elevator wanting to get me on video agreeing to something they desired from me. I noticed that their camera was already turned on — I reacted cordially and explained how there were only a few minutes before the presentation was going to start, and that I hadn’t coordinate with the event folks yet to get miked up. The event organizer came up to get me situated, and I went to grab some calories as I was close to empty. I also felt terrible that I couldn’t acquiesce to the needs of the person from the elevator — but I knew I wouldn’t make it through my presentation if I didn’t eat anything. So they left the stage and I went to find food plus get miked.

I was grabbing a quick bite to eat, embarrassingly scarfing my food down, and then this person came up to me again. Their passion was unequivocal, but their demands were not logical to me because I didn’t want to misrepresent what my company or role means — meanwhile I hadn’t fully figured out what I would present that morning. The presentation was about to start, and they had to leave. I turned my attention to the program at hand.

I gave my presentation, and then afterward I went to finish getting calories into myself, and this person appeared again while I was eating. I did my best to be polite and to learn what they wanted — but I found that their expectations did not meet what I could really provide. And I knew that would not be a satisfactory response. I also noticed their camera was turned on while they talked with me. They eventually gave up and walked off, and I tried to finish getting my blood sugar up — but it was frankly a little down because I knew that I’d let that person down, and intuited that something unexpected was about to happen.

Later I learned that they had published the video of me online (that was taken without my permission), and that my actions were grossly mischaracterized. For example, if I had the energy to run from this person (as they chose to describe my actions), I wouldn’t have needed any calories — because I’m not all too spry on a few hours of sleep and no breakfast. Sorry. I’m not superhuman (smile). And as a seasoned leader at scale, I’m not unfamiliar with letting people down all the time — and I work to not forget that feeling as an opportunity to seek improvement.

What lesson can I take away from all of this? That there are passionate people in the world, and that’s a good thing. And thanks to their impassioned actions (all for the best and right reasons), I’m accelerating my attention to the area that they point out needs to be addressed. Moving things forward takes time — and some things are more important than others. It takes impassioned people to remind you to wake up. It’s so easy to forget — and I’m glad to be reminded. Next week is a new week, and I’m determined to see if the weeks and months forward will be different. I send my special thanks to the person who texted me this morning.

What lesson can I take away from how information disseminates? All truths are hard to get to the bottom of — especially because there’s some form of interpretation that happens with everything we feel and experience. That includes how I describe my own actions here — are they a perfect representation? Probably not. But they are how I remember things, and that has meaning to me as I get ready to go to sleep.

And what will I do with this blog post? I likely won’t share it broadly and just leave it on my site here. It was a useful form of therapy for me to write for myself. It certainly helped me get my thoughts to electronic-paper. I’m particularly grateful for a system like WordPress today — it’s quite freeing to express oneself this way.

Edit history: I drafted this post last night. And then woke up this morning with new resolve and added in a few new thoughts about what I learned. Reflection is a good thing. And FYI when I give public talks I display a temporary telephone number to which the audience can ask me questions in realtime or I can answer them shortly afterwards. This telephone number disappears after three days, so if you don’t hear from me it’s not because I’m ignoring you — and comments are open for this post if folks would like more clarity on anything.

Photo by Masaaki Komori on Unsplash


I thought I’d start an FAQ in the comments section here rather than edit the post body.

Q: “Why can’t you agree to speak in a public forum about Gutenberg?”

A: Because Gutenberg is developed in the open as an initiative within the WordPress Project — and I do not personally nor professionally represent the WordPress Project. The WordPress Project is owned and operated with the open source credo — where any member of the community has the opportunity to impact the project’s direction. For me to represent any larger voice in the project than any other member would run counter to the community’s open, egalitarian nature. This is something I’ve noticed whenever I’ve attended WordCamp events and listened to community members there — so if you don’t seem me actively talking about how WordPress should be, it’s because I’m just another average member of the community. There are so many other community members’ opinions that need to be heard out there, and not just mine.

Thanks for your example here, John. I admire how leaders at your scale manage feedback, letting people down “all the time” as you say, and find a way forward. I appreciate you sharing this so candidly so I can learn from you from afar. I quote I referenced often during sports injuries comes to mind in reading your thoughts: “a setback is a setup for a comeback” (not sure the true origin).