How to make blogging harder than it should be.

20 January 2019

Blogging is hard.

When I started up this blog back in February last year I was doing so in the hopes of accomplishing a couple of goals:

  1. Learn and grow by having to demonstrate understanding of technical topics
  2. Having better future career prospects from demonstrating understanding of technical topics
  3. Encourage myself to grow as a developer

In order to do this, I set out starting to write blog posts like I used to write essays in my philosophy degree: each year I would write and deliver several essays. Each essay would be thoroughly researched, and would include proper academic referencing in the referencing style recommended by our department style guide. Each would take 1-2 months of work for non-graded essays and cumulatively 4-9 months for graded essays.

The problem is that blog posts are not academic essays.

It is important to write for your audience. My audience here is other developers that somehow stumble upon my posts because they’re about a subject they’re interested in, and my colleagues and former colleagues when I nag them to check out my latest post (mostly the latter). My audience in university used to be teaching assistants and professors that had 30-100 other essays just like mine to get through, and their job was to grade my essays based on a marking sheet that would evaluate a bunch of different parameters, including depth of research demonstrated and academic style conformity.

When my colleagues (or the occasional drifter looking for guidance on some obscure topic like webrtc transceivers) read my blog I imagine they read it very much the same way I read other people’s blogs: often skimming through the content for the juicy bits then moving on to the next post on the blogging platform, sometimes reading more carefully when they’re about a topic I care about, or if the writing is entertaining. Very rarely leaving a comment (not that you could on this blog), more often than not when I disagree with the post or part of it.

The topic (technical developer-y subjects) will ensure that the goal of demonstrating knowledge is accomplished, but the goal of keeping the audience engaged is not so easily accomplished. Blogging is not an academic essay and should not be treated as such, it should be written in full awareness of what the audience is like. It should aim to inform and entertain.

Obviously there are other issues with keeping up actively blogging, life inevitably gets in the way. Additionally, blogging takes away from precious spare-time programming. Ideally the two would go together: there would be some long running project to keep working on during weekends which would naturally feed directly into the blog. Unfortunately, I have not found any project that would fit the requirement, limiting myself to mostly re-writing tutorials for things I am learning (e.g. webrtc etc).

So, going forward blog posts will be less formal in structure, aiming to put the author’s thoughts on paper in a straightforward manner with less effort put into formality, referencing style and depth of research.