I learned the “Own Your Words” mantra the hard way several years ago. I’ve blogged on technical topics under a number of banners and web sites over the years. My blog moved twice while at Borland as new/better blog services came online every few years. While at Microsoft I was delighted to have the opportunity to blog under Microsoft’s MSDN banner, but of course when you decide to move on to other employment you can’t take your Microsoft blog with you.
Each change in employment or IT infrastructure creates a discontinuity in your personal timeline. Posts become isolated, orphaned, and will eventually disappear for lack of stewardship. Though most of the technical data in the posts may be obsolete mere months after publication, there is still a sense of personal loss when you discover your breadcrumbs to the past have disappeared.
As Scott Hanselman and others have noted, if your words are being stored and served by someone else, then the long term fate of your words is out of your hands. Domain names can change, cloud services can be acquired or shut down, and message histories can simply delete old messages after “a long time”.
The only long term solution is to own your words – own your domain name and use a portable (or exportable) blogging system running on a hosting service. You can still blog about work related topics as you would on a company blog, but when your employment changes (or the company goes poof!) you don’t lose your words or your history.
And make offsite backups of your content! Always be ready for your hosting provider or the server running your blog to go poof! some day. If you rely on the hosting provider to make backups of your content, then you are no closer to controlling the fate of your content. What happens when the hosting provider closes for business suddenly? Or the hosting provider’s servers are confiscated by law enforcement officials? Always have a backup plan that puts the data in your control.
I use WordPress to run my blog and other web sites and I’ve been using AllWebCo for hosting for many years. WordPress has import tools and plugins to import blog content and comments from a variety of other blogging systems, and it has its own built in export/import xml format to move all of the content of your WordPress site (posts, pages, tags, categories, and comments) to another WordPress host.
Content import/export doesn’t include theme configuration, scripts, or templates associated with your blog. To move the whole kit and kaboodle to a new host, you need database and file backup. I use BackWPUp to snapshot the WP database, metadata, and file system.