5 Years of Blogging About Software

5 years ago, I started blogging. I started really casually, my posts were personal reminders and notes rather than real well thought of articles. Nevertheless, it did me great good :

  • I’ve been invited to talk at meetups
  • I’ve had the joy of seeing some articles being tweeted many times
  • I received interesting job offers from all over the world

6 months ago, after reading Soft Skills: The software developer’s life manual, I set up the practice of writing at least one article per week, and here is my (very encouraging) graph of sessions since then:

Excuses Why Not To Blog

Here is a collection of the (bad) excuses you’ll often hear people say for not blogging :

I don’t know how to write …

Blogging regularly is actually a pretty good way to improve your writing skills. As usual, the key is to fake it until you make it.

I’m not into this social media stuff …

You don’t need to share anything personal on your software blog. In the end, your blog is a professional tool.

I don’t have anything interesting to say …

They are others in the same situation as you who would like to see more posts about the kind of uninteresting things you just discovered. Wouldn’t you have liked someone to have written the newby article about « how to do XXX » you just spent 3 days to crack ?

I don’t have the time …

Make it ! Time is never found, it is made. In the end, it’s just a matter of prioritization.

Obviously, there are other totally valid reasons why not to blog, but I’ll assume you’re able to recognize those.

Why Would You Blog ?

On the other side, if you jump into blogging, you can expect a lot of returns :

  • First thing is that you’ll obviously gain more visibility. I’ve got readers from all over the world, and my articles are sometimes re-tweeted many times.
  • You’ll improve your writing skills. Writing skills turn out to be unexpectedly important for software writers !
  • In order to lay down your ideas about something, you’ll need to dig a bit more into. It is said to be the last step to learning.
  • It can act as a personal documentation. I used to write mine as a how-to notepad on which I could refer later on.
  • If you have a day job, you can re-post your articles there. You should gain extra visibility and expose the company to new ideas.

How to start

Once you’ve decided that you want to blog, starting should not be an issue.

Pick a platform

There are a lot of blogging platforms out there. For programmers, I would recommend a few though :

Platform Pros Cons
Octopress Free, Open Source, Github hosting, static HTML generation, markdown & Git based, made for programmers Theming can be rocky
Medium Free, no setup, good looking, simple to use It’s a private company, so it could close some day ! It happened to postero.us (I remember, I was there …)
Posthaven Created by the founders of postero.us, sustainable, guarantees to keep it live for ever, can post by email ! Nothing special for programmers, 5$ / month
Logdown Looks like a hosted version of Octopress, without the hassle ! 50$/year

Then, it’s up to you !

Start with how-to articles

When I started my blog, it was mostly has a personal how-to reference. It allowed me to come back to it and find out how I did something last time. I thought that if it was important to me, it must be important to others as-well !

Blog regularly

Blogging every week made a huge difference to me. My traffic went from erratic to steadily increasing. I am currently observing a 11% traffic increase per month. This means that it nearly quadruples every year : I’m not going to stop now !

Integrate with the web

This boils down to social networks and analytics. Obviously, you’ll want to use Google Analytics to see how people are reading your content. I’m using the venerable Feedburner to automatically post my new articles on twitter. There’s an option to use your post categories as hashtags, be sure to make it works, it brings a lot of traffic.

It’s all up to you now !