in Technology, Work

Internal blogs — an organisational hack

I love this Mastodon thread from Simon Willison:

Here’s an organizational hack I’ve used a few times which I think more people should try: run your own personal engineering blog inside your organization

You can use it as a place to write about projects you are working on, share TILs about how things work internally, and occasionally informally advocate for larger changes you’d like to make

Crucially: don’t ask for permission to do this! Find some existing system you can cram it into and just start writing

Systems I’ve used for this include:

  • a Slack channel, where you post long messages, maybe using the Slack “posts” feature
  • Confluence has a blog feature which isn’t great but it’s definitely Good Enough
  • A GitHub repo within your organization works fine too, you can write content there in Markdown files

One thing to consider with this: if you want your content to live on after you leave the organization (I certainly do) it’s a good idea to pick a platform for it that’s not likely to vanish in a puff of smoke when the IT team shuts down your organizational accounts

That’s one of the things I like about Confluence, Slack and private GitHub repos for this

The most liberating thing about having a personal internal blog is that it gives you somewhere to drop informal system documentation, without making a commitment to keep it updated in the future

Unlike out-of-date official documentation there’s no harm caused by a clearly dated blog post from two years ago that describes how the system worked at that point in time

I thoroughly endorse this. I’ve been setting up blogs and internal communication channels at all of the organisations I have worked at over the past few years. We’ve recently started an internal blog for our team using a ‘community’ on Viva Engage (formerly Yammer) as it is the only ready-made platform that has reach across the whole company. At the moment we are still talking into the void, but these things take time.

Microsoft 365 used to offer a blogging facility on your ‘Delve profile’, but this was squirrelled away on the web and was tied to your account; it wouldn’t be widely visible and would disappear when you left the company. That facility now seems to have gone away. We tried using SharePoint, but it felt a bit like using a cheese grater to shave your legs — it would do the job, but not without a lot of pain.

There is so much value in working out loud, but I’ve never had much success in persuading other people to start posting their thoughts in blog form. The closest thing we have to it are internal Teams posts, which team members do post and do look like blogs — they may have a title, there’s some content and then there is a thread of comments. Perhaps these are easier to write because the audience is limited to a few known colleagues. We’ll keep experimenting.

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