On Blogging#

I have to keep a blog. Or so I was told by the universe. Multiple times.

It’s not like I haven’t tried. Some years ago I was blissfully tooting my own horn several times a year. Let’s look at the stats:

      Posts per Year (2014 - 2023)

10 - |        ‖
     |        ‖
     |        ‖
     |        ‖
     |        ‖
 5 - |        ‖
     |        ‖     ‖
     |        ‖     ‖
     |  ‖     ‖     ‖                 ‖
     |  ‖     ‖     ‖     ‖           ‖     ‖
 0 --+-------------------------------------------------------------
       2014  2015  2016  2017  2018  2019  2020  2021  2022  2023  

Hmm. Oh well. Let’s look at what happened. Maybe we can still salvage this.

First, I know this Graph isn’t 100% complete. There were some posts beforehand, when I was still on Blogspot. Those were not exported from Wordpress for some reason. There was a Hadoop setup tutorial, and a link to a version of Qt 5, compiled for the Raspberry Pi. That was at a time when Raspbian was delivering a completely inappropriate version for the hardware. Some people found it and downloaded it somehow. It’s gone now. What was I talking about..?

Oh, yeah. Blogging. How did I even start?

It’s my journey, sis#

I created a Blogspot around 2012 or so. I was an undergrad student at the time. I felt compelled to write, at least in part, from all of the great talent I got to read when looking into nerdy things. While teaching myself how to code, over the years, I had already spent quite some time reading what other people were writing on technical subjects. And I admired many of them. I wanted to be like that. I wanted to show people interesting things. Things they cared about just as much as I did. For sure, many of my peers can relate.

From 2014 onwards the focus began to shift a bit. I was an exchange student abroad, also working part-time as a developer. Aside from being a lab assistant at the University, that’s the first time I worked in the industry. And it was an eye-opener. Many of my peers were keeping their own blogs. Coding tips, code snippets, travel blogs. I saw a little bit of everything about everything, and that gave me the confidence to start posting more. But I didn’t have any specifi intent. I was mostly writing about what was was happening with my budding professional life, and some side projects. Things I did for fun. And I’d not give what I wrote much thought. I’d just put it out there, without second-guessing myself all that much.

When I went back to my country, in 2015, it became clear that only studying and not working was not the thing for me. I needed to work alongside my studies, even if that meant I’d take a bit longer to graduate. I knew I had to stand out in interviews if I wanted to keep climbing that proverbial ladder. And everyone who wants to know who I am, and what I’m up to, needs to know my accomplishments. All of them. At a convenient place. Let’s make it easy on the recruiters, right? Let’s blog about every single “cool” thing I ever did. That explains the peak on the graph.

As the years went by, and I had to finish my degree, I got more and more busy. And more depressed. Blogging was the last thing I felt like doing. It just felt secondary. In 2016 also, I started working more intensely than ever. I was halfway between being a part-time and a full-time employee. And studying at the same time. No wonder I silently quit.

The three posts from 2019 and 2020 are just casualties. I did a thing, thought it was nice, and decided, hey, I already went through all of this trouble for no reason, why not at least squeeze a post out of it? At that point, I was not under any illusion I was writing for anyone else but myself. And possibly for some recruiter somewhere. Lame, but true.

Tone and purpose#

That brings us to the meat of this post. When I was setting up this brand new, statically generated version of this site, I had to fix the markdown for all of the posts. And that meant rereading it all. When I read back some of those posts, the tone feels weird. At least, to me, it feels weird. It’s like I was writing a portfolio, not a blog. In a sense, that’s pretty much what it was. But still. “I did this and that, cool, right?” is not all that interesting of a read. At some point it crossed my mind, why even bother?

Maybe it is ok to write mostly for oneself. This one is still more for me that anyone else. It’s my way of collecting all the thoughts I had about all of the above. But there has to be something new. And there is. This time, I write hoping this is also useful to someone else.

Let’s see what Google has to say about it. As of now, when you Google “should developers blog”, the first results are:

  • Every developer should have a blog. Here’s why, and how to stick with it

  • 8 Reasons Why You Should Blog as a Developer

  • 5 Reasons Why Programmers Should Blog

  • 13 Best Reasons Why Developers Should Blog

  • 4 Reasons Why Every Developer Should Blog

  • 5 reasons why EVERY PROGRAMMER should have a blog

Well, that does look like a consensus of sorts. These results were dominated by listicle-type articles. Surely very SEO optimized and all that. At least, these listicle type articles make it easier to sample what are the main reasons given for it. Let’s try to categorize these reasons and plot them on a chart: (paywalled articles excluded)

Most-Mentioned Reasons to Blog
(Taken from a cursory listicle skimming)

 Portifolio and personal branding | ========
    Sharing knowledge and helping | ======
   Improving communication skills | =====
          Improving coding skills | ====
             Acquiring new skills | ====
                Low entry barrier | ===
              Fostering community | ==
               Researching better | =
    Documenting skill development | =
               Receiving feedback | =
       Selling goods and services | =
       Acquiring authority status | =
                     Learning SEO | =
      Writing about what you love | =

But, I hear you say, these are SEO-optimized listicles. Mostly written by people who blog, and have found at least some success while doing it. There’s a lot of bias there. What about what people are actually saying to each other? I did some looking around on Quora and Reddit. And came out feeling that, whilst blogging is not required for a successful developer career, it is very highly recommended, for pretty much the same reasons as collected above. It’s settled, then. Let’s stick with it.

One article that stuck with me in particular brough up some pretty strong points. And it happened to be the first search result. As it goes, a successful blog, is more than anything, not written for you. Nor is it about you. It is written in a way to be as useful as possible for others. Makes sense to me. It sounds like the best way to achieve all of the aforementioned benefits, is to try your best to create value for others. The value for you comes naturally from that. And if you create good things, people will come. More people are coding than even before, aren’t they?

Maybe this “make it useful” directive is the one that stuck the most, because when confronted with what I feel reading those old blog posts, it becomes rather obvious. I was not writing for others, I was writing for myself, and about myself. For the world, the interest in that is limited. As I was converting all of the old copy to Markdown, there was no helping the feeling that nobody cared. Because it is not at all useful to anyone to know of my accomplishments in an itemized fashion. Maybe for me, to sell my time and effort for money in a subordinate relationship. Maybe also for some nostalgia. And for not much else.

As for the inner voices in our heads, “I’m not a good writer”, “I fear criticism”, “I have nothing interesting to put out there”, the article has a pretty clear direction for that: don’t give a shit. (Expletive mine.) It does not matter at all. Even if you are not being seen, many of the benefits of writing out stuff still apply. You sure lose out on the communal aspect if your blog is not found by anyone. But there are ways of getting there, and getting exposure. And yes, SEO is also important.

Am I overthinking this? Definitely. But I wanted to know what I’m doing this for. And if you got this far, you may be wondering about the same, if you don’t blog already. That’s why this post is also not just completely for me, or about me. But make of all of this what you make.

What now?#

I still feel like it is important to write things other than code. Even if it is about code, or the industry I find myself in, or just geekery in general. Reasoning about these things can only make me a better programmer and a better professional. It can also help me reflect on my choices and my sense of purpose. We’ll see.

Next time I’ll try to come up with a tutorial, some guide, something like that. Something genuinely useful to someone. It may not even be in English, if I figure out it will cause more impact that way. Who knows. See you in a bit. Sooner this time.