Technical Blogging for the Noob

This post came about from a speech I had to give.  So this is a very high overview.

Blog is an abbreviation for the word weblog.  It is an ongoing diary style list of entries usually done in reverse chronological order.  Blogs can fill many types of niches, personal, political, technical, or family to name a few.   Blogs can focus on a wide range of topics such as development, cooking, child care and so on. 

But isn’t blogging dead?  You might have head this question before.  It is a common misconception.  When Twitter (2006) and Tumblr (2007) launched they where classified as micro blogs.  Micro blogs differ from the traditional blogging scheme is that the data exchanged is usually smaller in content and transmission size.   What a good deal of folks I know, including myself, do the following.  Write a lengthy blog post, because the 140 characters that twitter allows is just to small, post that to a web site, and use twitter plus other social media sites to advertise those.

A great book that I recommend reading is this: Technical Blogging.  It has a great topic in the introduction. 

An established blog is like a megaphone.

What they mean by this is that a blog can amplify your voice.  You can go and speak at conferences and you might reach 5, 10, 20 and so on people at a time, a well established blog can reach thousands.   The caveat is that in order to produce that type of echo chamber it takes a great deal of time and work.  I have read some post that suggest it usually takes about two to three years and new content released consistently to become established in your niche. (many factors can very this statement)

Common reasons people do not blog

  • I don’t have time: Like I stated above, an established blog takes a great deal of time and work.  Time management skills is something that you will establish as time goes one.  You also do not need to blog daily, you can publish a blog once a week, month, or year. 
  • I am not an expert in the field:  I will talk about later, but you do not need to be an expert.  If you do not know a topic, the chances are you are not alone.  Just writing about your experience or the steps you did to accomplish something has the potential of teaching someone else.  Unfortunately we cannot all learn KungFu like Neo, so we must learn from others.
  • I am not getting page views: I had someone tell me one time, write your technical blog as if it was knowledge base system that you can use.  If just happens to be public so others can share in the information.
  • I am getting negative reviews of my blog: Like everything else in life, a little moderation can go a long way.  Evaluate those why you are getting negative reviews, if it is because you are writing about your view on life and someone is disagreeing, then moderate them.  Be careful though to much moderation can have a negative impact, a healthy debate can be good.

Advantages of blogging

  • Improved writing skills: you will want to write in a way that is interesting to people.  As you write you are practicing and eventually will will establish your own writing style that draws readers in.
  • Improved research skills:  research is a pivotal skill of blogging.  The more you write the more you will research either to verify facts or look for inspiration.  Over time researching will become a habit that comes naturally. 
  • Improved knowledge: Even if your topic is the smallest of niche markets as you blog the level of knowledge in that market will continue to improve.  To be honest if the level of information in the blog did not continue to improve why would people come back.  Research has the added benefit of also improving or broadening someone’s knowledge level.
  • You as a brand: As your writing improves your readers get to know who you are, your passions, and potential employers get to see a real life demonstration of your skill as a researchers.   Over time your blog can become a powerful portfolio. 
  • Connect with others: There is the potential to meet new readers everyday, establish a working relationship with your existing readers, and the potential to meet other bloggers in your niche.  These relationships has the potential to help you to learn new things, get topic ideas, and in todays world networking with others is important.

Things to Do

Here I am going to list a few things to do and not do on your blog.  One thing that you need to keep a mindful eye on is that you are writing for a web audience.  Most reader will get board of an APM style article (with the exception that is your niche)

  • Title and first paragraph: This is almost true for any types of writing.  You typically have only a few short minutes to capture your readers attention.
  • Short Paragraphs: Nothing scares off potential readers then a thousand words in one paragraph.  Short and to the point is what most readers enjoy.  Your paragraphs should be concise and to the point.
  • Use bullet points: This makes your content easy for your visitors to scan.  It allows you to highlight the important parts of the article.
  • Be informal: Readers are looking for gain knowledge on a topic.  At the end of the article when you read it ask yourself “Would readers want to start a conversation on this?”
  • Acknowledge corrections/updates: If you make a correction, with the exception of typos and formatting issues admit it.  You can use the <del> tag to do a strike through of the incorrect content.  Admitting mistakes and updating an article shows readers that you have a sense of honesty and shows your desire to post factual information. 
  • Proofread: Another one of those important steps for any type of writing.  Ensure the flow of the article is good, check your spelling and grammar. 

Things not to do

  • Overuse of bold or italic text: Use these sparingly.  If this is used to much they can annoy readers and turn them off.  The exception to this rule is to off set the headings.
  • Underlined text: On the web underlined text is the defacto standard that means there is a hyperlink associated with it. 
  • Blogspam: this is the act of republishing someone else’s work without adding anything to it.  If you want to inform your readers about someone else’s article.  Create one that talks about it, give credit and a link to the other persons article.
  • Plagiarisms: don’t copy someone else’s hard work word for word and put your name on it.  It might work for a bit but eventually you will be found out. 
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