Why a blog

I wanted to do the blog thing for quite some time already. I always imagined it would be in the context of my daily job, however, I never thought it would ever be in the form of a public blog.

I work for a fairly small company (Cobi: 20-30 employees) and the department I’m working in is in charge of the ERP solution we offer to SMB’s, as well as the inevitable customizations, extensions, and specialized interfaces with bolt on top of it.

This ERP suite (SouthWare) is quite capable — on the ERP side of things. But it also carries a legacy of being built with a seemingly ancient technology. So we devised different ways to teach this old COBOL dog new HTML, AJAX-y PHP and SQL tricks to bring it into the Internet age.

It’s been working quite well. The modern web interface driving the mature, rock-solid back-end has proven to be a pretty nice combination.

So how did that lead me to the blog idea?

Well, to put it shortly, it’s all about sharing (and recording) knowledge.

Being a small team, we end up doing a bit of everything, but we each necessarily become specialized in our own area of the system. Some feel more comfortable near the back-end and others, with the object-oriented PHP programming, for example.

All of this is fine, but what happens is that when a member of the team leaves the company, for a reason or an other, a big part of the experience this person earned disappears also from the company. Sure, some things are documented but the vast majority of the know-how, the experience, is lost.

This is why I thought that a way for employees to blog their findings into posterity would be a good solution to this problem. The first post to explain why an HTML block-level element’s height is not affected by the height of a floating child block-level element unless it is itself also floated would thankfully save the other developers the time to make experiments (the shoot-in-the-dark kind) and google for a solution.

The blogs would be appropriately aggregated, tagged and indexed, and everybody would get a continuous stream of new things to learn, and an ever expanding knowledge base to dig into. Pretty neat, isn’t it?

When I approached the direction with this idea, however, it got rather quickly turned down for one simple reason: employees would never get to put content online, they would see it more as a burden than anything else — blogs would not fit into the company’s present culture.

Actually, given said culture in this company, I think that’s a rather valid argument. One to which the direction added that it would be nice that some day, this culture would have changed enough that such a project could become a reality.

I am not so sure however, that cultural changes inside a company happen all by themselves, while wishing for them to happen. I think that people have a natural tendency to resist change and as such, efforts of some kind are necessary in order to bring such changes about.

So wishing luck to this project for some distant future is a bit disappointing. It is also some kind of assurance that the current state of affairs will stay as it is for quite some time, if you ask me. Or maybe we are just too small a group to ever hope get enough writing-inclined people to post blog material.

Anyhow, no company-endorsed blog for now, but I still think disseminating knowledge is a good thing, so I decided to do this on my own.

We all are reinventing the wheel over and over, so if I can help somebody find an answer more quickly by having it recorded here, I’ll be happy about having offered this contribution.

So… drum roll… This blog is open!

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