Facilitating the Spread of Knowledge and Innovation in Professional Software Development

Write for InfoQ


Choose your language

InfoQ Homepage News How Blogging Empowers Agile Teams

How Blogging Empowers Agile Teams

Leia em Português

This item in japanese

Moving the thinking and decisions a team makes from people’s inboxes onto a blog can make it accessible to all, findable in the future, and referenceable by everyone. Instead of writing documentation, you can use blogumentation to transfer knowledge and document the history of projects that provide context to the code.

Matt Jukes, product manager at mySociety, spoke about the importance of being open at Agile Cambridge 2017. InfoQ is covering this conference with Q&As, summaries, and articles.

InfoQ interviewed Jukes about why openness is important, what are suitable topics for blogging and what are tricky ones, the benefits that agile teams and managers can get from blogging, and good practices for blogging.

InfoQ: Why do you consider openness to be important?

Matt Jukes: For me the 10th of the UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS) principles sum it up best for me "Make things open: it makes things better." The web is built on openness and while we might live in an age of internet giants building walls it is still this ability to be a part of something much bigger, to share and to learn from others around the world that is what fuels my passion for the web.

I think blogging can be one of the purest forms of openness on the web (it isn’t always) and in the best of it there is a spirit of generosity that understands that by openly sharing your lessons locally you contribute to a global commons that helps others. I learned more about being a product manager and a leader from blogs than I ever did from books or courses and feel a responsibility to contribute back.

InfoQ: What are suitable topics for blogging? What are the tricky ones?

Jukes: I don’t go in for things like social media guidelines or editorial plans with blogging - not for myself or my teams. I do however expect people to demonstrate common sense but otherwise, I don’t think topics should be off limits.

It is amazing how many topics you might think are uninteresting or a little basic will quickly find an audience (while on other occasions something you think is really interesting will make no impact at all!).

That said, I primarily blog for myself - to make sense of my ideas and to think out loud. I encourage people to write #weeknotes which are at their most basic level, just a weekly work diary, but the discipline of doing it helps surface issues and ideas that other people find interesting.

The most popular posts I have written tend to be related to working with and leading agile teams - it is an endlessly popular topic. More technical colleagues have success with more detailed "how to.." type posts but like I said earlier you never really know what will be popular.

The tough posts are when you are in a difficult situation at work - I call these "canary down the mine" posts. When you are blogging but find yourself constantly self-censoring and second-guessing yourself, then the problem probably isn’t the writing, but the environment you are operating in.

InfoQ: What benefits can agile teams get from blogging?

Jukes: I believe blogging assists (agile) teams in a couple of major ways. The main one is that (in my opinion) good teams are all about communication. So many of the agile ceremonies are really just trying to implement habits to improve communications within teams and blogging is another one of the tools in that toolbox. Another thing that GDS used to say is "publish don’t send". The idea being that there was a real benefit removing the thinking and decisions a team makes from people’s inboxes and onto a blog where it could be accessed by all, findable in the future and referenceable by everyone. Related to this is another huge advantage to blogging - agile teams are often horrible at knowledge transfer and documentation. I always like to talk about blogumentation - encouraging teams to blog with no pressure, on topics they care about leads to a narrative that explains the history of projects that provide context to the code.

InfoQ: Can you mention some good practices for blogging?

Jukes: I think I am probably a whole bag full of bad practices when it comes to my blogging but here are a few:

  • I write for an audience of one - Future Matt
  • Get a second pair of eyes to read through your posts before publishing - just to sense check, not edit as such (I don’t do this but should!)
  • Publish. Perfect is the enemy of good. So many people I know have a folder full of draft posts but never put them live
  • Link to sources. Give credit where it is due
  • Write in your natural voice. It isn’t a press release or a textbook so don’t try to make it too corporate or academic

Rate this Article