5 Tips to Start Blogging (for Devs)
September 14, 2020 - 7 min
Have you ever had this itch to start writing a blog?
You’re a developer. You’ve just spent 2 days, 3 hours and 44 minutes (thank you time tracking) figuring out how to build standalone Expo applications.
The documentation is not so clear (or inexistent) because you’re using bleeding edge tech. 😎
You have suffered. You had started full of energy, with a smile on your face. Oh, but you have suffered.
And now you want to tell the entire world (or just your future self, when you google it again) how to solve this problem. All the details you would have wanted for yourself and that you earned at great cost will be there. And more!
💡 “Yes!”, you suddenly shout. “Let’s start a blog!”
Here follows the list of my key takeaways from the Coding Career’s Blogging for devs workshop, hosted by Shawn Swyx Wang with none other than Monica Lent from BloggingForDevs.com as guest.
Tip #1. Schedule your time for writing
Observation: There are many blogs with only 3 blog posts.
Solution: Though it might seem trivial for many, scheduling time to ensure writing gets prioritised is very important to build a habit and stay consistent.
If you blog 1 new post every 2 weeks for 6 months, that’s already 12 posts (I surely needed a PhD in maths for these mental gymnastics 😉) In short, you’ve got to put in the work and you can only measure its impact over time.
Yours truly took this advice to heart, and I decided last Sunday to plan out my entire time this week. This is what it looks like for Monday to Friday:
- 6:50-7:05: Meditation (I was already doing this)
- 7:10-8:10: Writing (when my brain is still fresh)
- 8:10-8:27: Get ready for work (because I can’t go in pajamas)
- 8:27-9:00: Bike/Tram to work
- 9:00-17:30: Work
- 17:30-18:00: Bike/Tram back home
- 18:00-22:30: “Free” time
My schedule in Google calendar
Tip #2. Build an idea engine
Observation: With this frantic schedule, you’ve now got plenty of time to write. But you just don’t know what to write about after some time.
Solution: Set up a system to come up with ideas of things to write about. You could go overboard and start your own Second Brain or Zettlekasten (and spend a week researching them and trying to implement them). The point is to have a repository of ideas of things you’re interested to write about.
In day #2 of the BloggingForDevs email course (you should subscribe, it’s really great!), Monica explains:
It’s like a constantly running production line that always has ideas at various stages of readiness. Here’s how you can apply it:
- Maintain an idea log
- Determine the best medium (social media vs. search)
- Validate your idea with research
This process is less like a step-by-step and more of continuous cycle.
One thing you might want to avoid is to have too many tools serving for that purpose. Pick one and stick to it for some time before even thinking of trying another. Start simple.
If you’re really struggling for ideas, Shawn suggests writing about something you find yourself googling a lot. You could build a reference for yourself.
I have heard on countless podcasts that people end up googling the same thing at some point in the future, only to stumble upon their own article in the search results…
In light of Shawn’s Pick Up What They Put Down hack, you could also:
- explain the source code of a demo that you particularly liked, e.g. a written version of Shawn’s deconstruction of the 3D-like animation of MozillaLifeBoat.com ;
- summarize a talk, a podcast or a book e.g. 5 Things I Learned from The DynamoDB Book, by Shawn.
Tip #3. Publish on your own domain
Observation: When using other people’s platforms (and domains) to publish your content, the following may happen:
- if they disappear/decide to freeze your account, your content is gone *poof* 💨
- if your article gets picked up on HackerNews and goes viral (which results in many people linking back to your article), you’re missing out SEO-wise
- with your quality content, you’re helping build the platform’s reputation, not your own: “I saw this article on Medium about X” vs “I know this person’s blog about X”
There are countless platforms on which to publish your content. When you’re just starting out and you’re not sure this blogging thing is your cup of coffee, maybe that’s enough. (That’s actually what I did, my first post as a developer was on Medium, about my Sick picks from Frontend Con 2018 @ Warsaw, Poland.)
Solution: Buy a domain name.
Added bonus: it’s cool to have your own domain 😎
Tip #4. Don’t fret over the tech stack
Observation: People won’t come to your blog just because of your tech stack (unless you blog about it and explain why it’s so awesome and it ranks on HackerNews’s first page! 😜)
As a developer, chances are you have your favourite stack. You could spend countless hours making decisions over what to use. That is, countless hours away from writing and effectively producing content.
In addition, just like any software you would be writing at work, you will need to spend time maintaining your website. That is, time away from writing and effectively producing content.
Especially when starting out, you really don’t want to find yourself blocked because of your tech stack: analysis paralisis, SSL certificate not propagating correctly, etc. The point should be about writing and effectively producing content.
Solution: Start with as simple a setup as possible. If you know just HTML and CSS, that’s enough. If you want to use Gatsby, use Gatsby in the most minimal way for you to have a place to call home on the Internet. You could also be publishing through a no-maintainance platform that allows custom domains so that Takeaway #3 is fulfilled.
That being said, I do want to simplify my current setup with Gatsby, and move over to something simpler like Eleventy, Alpine and Tailwind. I have way too many Gatsby plugins and I’m scared to upgrade them. Of course, I will spend time on this outside of writing hours.
Tip #5. Learn enough SEO
- SEO is not something many developers care much about: it’s a thing for evil marketers, right? 🤑
- Most of your readers will find you through a search engine (after the spikes from Twitter, HackerNews and newsletters).
Solution: Get some grasp of SEO for your website to eventually get indexed by Google: it would be a shame for people to miss out on your content because you did not do your homework. You could start with Monica’s link building strategies, or better yet, wait for Day #3 of her Blogging For Devs email course.
Observation #1 means that if you care slightly more about SEO than other developers, your content will rank higher in Google’s search results. Because it’s not very competitive in the tech blogging space, Monica thinks investing in SEO will provide the best ROI, especially when starting from scratch with no prior following.
That’s it, you’re now a professional tech blogger. Hum, theoretically. 😉 So let’s put these tips in practice and get writing!
What is your writing schedule and routine?
How does your idea engine look like?
I’d love to hear about these!
Share your experience in the comments below or tag @RobinCsl on Twitter.
Personal blog written by Robin Cussol
I like math and I like code. Oh, and writing too.