One thing I’d definitely recommend to any new developers is to have your own blog. It’s also a view I’ve seen shared by a lot of experienced developers. But why?
How I Started
I’ve had this WordPress blog up and running since summer 2008. I know. A long time. I had a small static website for about 5 years before that. For me it came out of necessity. I was doing freelance web design so needed somewhere to promote my services and showcase what I could do. I started writing articles as a way of creating fresh content in order to climb the search engine results listings. This certainly did not have an instant impact but over a long time I think it did make a difference.
When I started writing articles I knew that nobody would be reading them. I’m a realist and accepted that from day one. I was writing for myself. I still see it this way. It’s for me and if it helps someone else, that’s a bonus.
When I learn something interesting that I think is worth holding onto I write about it. It’s a good way of helping to commit it to memory as well as creating an easy to find reference point to come back to.
With anything of a technical nature, putting it into your own words and using your own mental models really helps you to fully understand it. It’s a bit like the idea of learning by teaching. If you’ve ever done a presentation you’ll know that the preparation you do really helps strengthen your own knowledge of the subject.
A bit like keeping a diary having your own blog will let you see where you were a year ago, 5 years ago, ten years ago, or more. It’s like a record of your own journey within the technology and the industry.
Show and Tell
However, in my opinion, these are not the best reasons for having a blog. I think that the best reason is having something to show for your time. By putting in some time to write, little and often, over time you build up a nice collection of your thoughts, ideas and opinions. You have evidence of what you’re into and what you spend time thinking about.
Put yourself in an interview situation, going for your dream developer job. You can show your blog and right there you have strong evidence that you are passionate about the subject and that you willingly invest time and effort in it. That has to count for a lot. It shows more commitment and serious intent than social media activity.
You don’t have to be good at writing. Even the best writers improve over time. Keep going and you’ll find your way.
Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t written for a while. Just do it as and when you want to. Don’t force it and write about something you’re not that bothered about just to get content.
Similarly, don’t feel it has to be long form and 1000 words every time. It’s fine to just share an idea in a few sentences.
Another recommendation with writing a blog is to host your own site so that you retain 100% ownership of your content. There are numerous tech blogging platforms (e.g. medium, dev.to) but owning your own content and having any traffic surges benefiting you rather than the platform is definitely worth it long term.
If you do use a third party platform check out the export options. Can you get all your content out and move it elsewhere? It’s good to be free to do what you want with your work.
There are lots of blogging platforms and software options out there. Personally I’ve always found WordPress is the best fit for my needs. The fact that it has native apps means that if I’m out and about and suddenly have a great idea for a post I can capture a quick draft there and then.
It’s also very easy to export and import your data, meaning you can shift content from an old blog to a new one, combine or separate blogs, and move between hosted (.com) and self-hosted (.org) versions.
The control over the design and ability to switch themes easily means you can keep your site fresh without having to worry about rewriting the content – there’s a perfect separation between content and presentation.