I think that writing a useful blog shouldn’t be too hard with the technologies we have. But it is.
Not that writing about interesting topics is the primary challenge, but allowing others to find and use the information that you have written about is really hard to do. Sure, there are search boxes provided on blogs that allow you to find a key term. Some people use blogs that have menus and additional pages (see Figure 1 for example) that make the blog look and feel somewhat like a website. However, what if you are looking for something and you can’t think of the right search term? What if you need to learn something about a particular topic but don’t realize the information is there for you to use? Additionally, how many blogs have you seen that give you a big-picture overview of what the author is trying to accomplish? The answer for me on that last question is – not very many, if any at all!
I have come to realize that by their very nature, blogs are just one big list of serial topics over time. Bloggers tend to meander from topic to topic, with some topics being revised and revisited over time. Finding the connections between those topics isn’t easy unless the blogger gives you links to previous material. Blogs are like old-time data processing routines – look through a list of items one thing at at time to find what you are looking for. Who wants to spend time looking through a calendar that shows when a blogger wrote something? Who cares when it was written, we need to know what was written! That approach is no help to us when we are looking for something in particular. Blogs have no consistent structure (1000’s of themes exist!), no ability to visualize global content, and generally no grand scheme is employed to help users explore the blog. Blogs have hidden information that is buried by time, a lot of which can be great treasures for you if you only knew where to dig them up! I contend that in their current form, blogs are not a great archive – they are archaic! After all, aren’t blogs written to help other people learn?
I have simply gotten tired of writing HTML links and tables, seeing mis-formatted tables and incorrect color renderings on different devices, and seeing garbled pages on this blog. By trying to introduce structure through an array of logically-designed HTML tables, I have learned the hard way that it is too time consuming to maintain the data contained in my blog using this approach. When I started this blog, I didn’t know that this problem would eventually exist. I didn’t know how important it was going to be for me to introduce a consistent style and structure to my blog. However, I now know the solution to my problem. Read ahead to understand the solution.
If you like this article and would like to see more of what I write, please subscribe to my blog by taking 5 seconds to enter your email address below. It is free and it motivates me to continue writing, so thanks!
The solution to the problem!
The solution is called Tableau. By simply building a database of my blog posts, I now let Tableau handle and organize the blog information and all I have to do now is periodically update a dashboard on Tableau Public. By looking at the dashboard shown in Figure 2, any of my blog visitors can see what I have written about by category and subcategory. By looking at the dashboard shown in Figure 3, any of my blog visitors can see which blog posts have drawn the most attention in terms of total hits and hits per day. They can click a button to launch into any blog post desired. Time can be expanded and contracted. Searches can be conducted as shown in Figure 4. In this example, I searched for the term “model” because I was interested in finding all the posts that contain information on Tableau trend models. Organization and structure now exist for my information. What is best of all is that no matter how the content of my blog might change over time, all I have to do is add a new category and keep appending simple records to the database. This approach is easy to maintain and will make my life a lot easier in the future as I try to recall what I have written about or to find a post that needs revision. This approach will also make it easier for me to connect other pieces of digital information to the blog posts such as training videos, graphics, pictures, and training workbooks. Tableau provides us with a brilliant solution to a widespread problem. It only took me six months to figure it out!