How to Blog as a Developer – Writing Technical Sources
Software development is difficult, confusing, and terrifying. Actually, almost everything is, especially writing your own blog!
Because of its, most of the time, unpredictable trajectory in trends and innovations, in Software Development you must learn every day. Hence, sharing your knowledge as a developer is both beneficial to the larger community and yourself – in cementing your know-how and helping others!
But not everyone is a writer! Writing can seem dauting or scary for many people – “What if it’s boring?”; “Everyone wrote about it already”; “I don’t even know where to start”; and sometimes you’re just waiting for that “muse” etc.
All these concerns are valid to an extent, but trust us, once you get started, it gets a lot easier. And if you found our article, then you’re on the right path and need some actionable advice! So, let’s stop beating around the bush and get right to it!
Know what you write and why!
First thing you must figure out: what are you going to write about. To do that, you must self-reflect. What am I good at? What are my strengths? What is the primary position I occupy in the company or as a profession? What skills do I want to learn?
It might sound obvious, but many times during conversations with our colleagues regarding the aspect of writing, many seem at a loss as to *what* to write.
You have three options:
First: “Write what you know” – A cliché advice but nonetheless important.
If you’re a front-end developer who’s been at it for most of his life, I’m sure you’ve got a story or two. Capitalize on your strengths, on your experience, focus on what is interesting to you! Don’t think – “No one but me finds this interesting”. You’d be surprised how many likeminded people there are!
Second: “Learn by doing” – You never stop learning, and you never should.
If you’ve ever had a goal to learn a new programming language, or get proficient with a new architecture pattern, or perhaps deviate into a completely different area – do it as you write! Your research, and learning curve will be enhanced by what you put down and “document”. And because you “have” to finish your blog post, it will be that extra push that will make you see it to the end.
And don’t be discouraged if you struggle to finish something – procrastination is a massive epidemic in humankind, and any tool in helping against it is great!
Third: “Fill in the gaps” – Software, languages, professions, all ever evolve.
No matter how many years you’ve spent on doing your “thing”; know that there will always be improvements, changes, and most importantly surprising “gaps” in your knowledge. And the best way to find those gaps, is by trying to teach someone about your wonderful skill, only then you notice that perhaps your grasp isn’t as complete as you thought.
So, by dedicating your time on writing a blog post yourself, you actively improve your main skill.
What’s your purpose/goal?
Once you’ve figured out what approach to take, answer yourself – what is the purpose of my future post.
It can be entertainment
There is humour in everything, and it’s doubly enjoyable and rewarding when you find those “in the know” whom only after years of working in the field will get the “joke”.
Developing new and interesting ways for the old roads
Perhaps you’ve found out that you have an interesting way of solving a frequent problem. Or you’ve dug up a new way to improve an existing framework. Maybe you do not agree with the main paradigm and want to challenge it! Write about it!
“Explain it like I’m five”
A Reddit community of some 20 million subscribers, is a splendid example of why we need people in-the-know explaining seemingly obvious things. Not only to the un-initiated but also sharing new ways of looking at things like software development.
Many times, people are reluctant to ask the obvious questions, they would rather google it, but most of the time they will be met by a wall of official documentation. Why not fill in that gap, and write a post about it with your own unique take on it?
Writing *simple* explanations is not something bad
Self-reflect on the problems you’ve found! Solve them!
Another terrific way to pick a topic is looking back at your past projects and endeavours. Find what made them slug, what slowed down the development, what common mistakes were made and how they were overcome!
If you’ve ever met a problem, chances are someone else already has, and most importantly, someone will encounter it again.
Don’t be like that.
Just because you’ve googled the question and a forum post came up answering it, it’s no reason not to write about it. Forums die, or they can give an incomplete picture, they are active discussions which some can find hard or frustrating to understand.
Also, you can actively deconstruct the problem, look at it from a few angles, compare it with other problems and solutions!
Begin your R&D – Research and Development
Next step is doing your research. This applies regardless of if you’re publishing yourself or writing a technical source.
As we’ve talked before, content/value is king! That is why the process of researching your topic is vital.
Let’s take as an example this article about ORMs. Before we even began writing the article, we had to fully comprehend what Object Relation Mappers are, how they work, why they matter.
However, in the article we barely explain it, because the core was not ORMs but comparing two different ORM tools!
During your research, try looking at things with fresh eyes; assume your reader doesn’t understand the topic. Many people are reluctant to ask simple or obvious questions, and there are many gaps in people’s knowledge, even professionals. Why not dedicate a few sentences explaining something as you build your article brick by brick as if it were a house.
But to do that, you’ll have to make sure you know what you’re talking about, here’s a list of things we suggest you follow:
- Research and understand every little piece of what you’re talking about
- Read official documentation and sources
- Browse open forums or communities and get a clearer picture
- Make notes everywhere about everything you read during R&D
- Keep useful links bookmarked and handy
- Focus on finding counter arguments to your ideas or thesis
- Imagine use-cases, paint a clear problem and how you solved it
Structure your post and content!
If you’re publishing yourself, this is incredibly important, however if you’re collaborating with a writer’s team as a technical expert, this is optional.
So, after you’ve done your research, its time to start writing. First thing you must take care of is structure. Plan your content wisely and consistently.
According to a statistic, half of 409 million people viewing more than 20 million blogs each month, merely skim the blog before they commit to reading the actual post.
Making an understandable table of contents is crucial when writing blog posts. Our headings and subheadings are here to the rescue. Make sure your blog post is understandable for people who are there for only a few seconds.
Before you start laying down any sentences, focus on developing the overall structure and develop from there, even if it changes along the course:
Catchy and inclusive Title
Writing great titles is an art-form of itself. There are literally thousands of advice pieces on the internet dedicated solely to this. And for good reason, almost everyone reads at least the title, before they commit to the entire article.
A proper title must adhere to many requirements, it has to be catchy, comprehensive of your core subject, and SEO optimized.
Though if you have an editor taking care of your blog or a SEO specialist, it will fall onto him to create these.
This is our second hook – here opinions divide between specialists.
Some say your job is to supply a succinct description about what you’re going to talk about.
Other’s state that you must grab the reader’s attention, and/or provide just enough information to entice the reader to go further.
Headings and Sub-headings
Both for search engine optimization and general readability of your piece, make sure to limit your paragraphs to shorter sentences. No one likes a wall of text, so break apart your information into chunks, sperate them with easy-to-follow sub-headings.
Also avoid lengths of 300 or more words between your Sub-headings.
Graphics and Gaps
Aside from breaking apart your piece with headings, its also great to add informative graphics or other images to give a sort of respite to your reader.
A personal favourite of our editor is to furnish our blog with memes, can be controversial, however we believe in what we said about finding other people “in the know” who will understand and relate to our humour. Also, it makes us happy.
Explaining “engaging content.“
Give Use-Cases and Examples
The bread and butter of any technical source. Give use-cases your reader can follow or actual examples in the field, like pieces of code, business analysis predictions, or graphical examples about what you’re talking about.
Theory is nice and all but, the best value articles are the ones which take one or two problems and talks the reader through fixing them with hands-on experience.
Overall length: 1500-2,450?
A relatively controversial topic among the specialists, with varying statistics being thrown around to the most optimal length of an article.
Understand that not everybody has the time, or the dedication to read your article. People’s time and attention is precious. That’s why there must be a limit, but what is it?
Some claim that the optimal word count is between 1500-2000, others claim that the top google search results are usually 2000+ word articles, or even that the 2,450-word count is the absolute golden sweet spot.
We however, think it “depends” on many factors – from your target audience to the topic at hand and the complexity among others.
However, if you’re writing a technical source – The more the merrier! Don’t worry, your editor is probably reading small print books on a daily basis during his research. If you think you wrote too much, perish the thought, and write some more!
Tools to help you out
One of the massive hurdles that people encounter when they are faced with the task of writing something is their procrastination. One of the best ways to combat this aside from dropping all possible distractions is employing a project management tool for personal use.
There are dozens upon dozens of time management tools, it’s all about adhering to it. If you’re not the kind of person who can sit down and write everything in one go (nobody is, especially if you factor in the particularly important R&D) – dedicate 30-60 minutes per day to this task, depending on urgency or desire.
A personal favourite of ours is Trello, its free and it has a very sleek design that particularly speaks to our editor, combine it with the Kanban approach and you’re golden!
For proof reading, you can either use the inbuilt proofing in your writing tool of choice like Word.
Conclusion & Farewell
Writing consistently is a skill worth developing, regardless of your ambitions as a full-time writer or not. Simply by attempting to inform people, or teach them something new; you’re actually helping yourself .
Besides don’t forget that the HR practice of simply googling your name is growing.
Why not make them impressed with not only a great upkept LinkedIn, but your personal blog, showing off all your various skills as a professional?
With that said we hope you found everything you need in this article, and remember, regardless of how many blogs there are out there, there isn’t one written by you! And let me tell you, it’s a crying shame.
While you’re still here, what do you consider the most important part of any blog?
Stay classy business and tech nerds!