Blogging

This is short three part series on writing and blogging.

Follow this advice, and you’ll be better than half of the programmer blogs out there!

1. Why do we need a blog? Why do we need to write?

Your blog should be your home on the web [1].

While it’s all fine and dandy to have your github profile and your medium presence and your twitter thingamajig, always remember that you don’t control those services.
Neither is there any assurance, that they will last.
You’ll find a lots of links here to Seth Godin, Brent Simmons, Dave Winer [2] and our very own Kushal Das.
Why?
Because they have blogs.
They controlled their message.
They started early and never stopped. Seth, Dave, & Brent have been writing online since the mid to late 90s; Kushal, since the early oughts.

Your blog is the easiest way of controlling your message.

Think you can host videos the way you want to? Not unless you’re Mr.Moneybags.
How about audio? Well, imagine the setup and the time and effort.
All you need to blog is consistency, a computer and an internet connection.
Can be online? Can blog!
And as you grow, you can scale your blog to all levels of crazy & fanciness. (if you so choose)

Blogs make it easy for people to reach out to you.

You can share all you know. Your thoughts, your opinions, your own way of serving the world.
Stick to it long enough and the world will beat a path to your door.
For a long, long while (nearly a decade) Seth was the first result when you searched Google for the word blog.
With a reach like this, do you think any of our heroes have trouble finding new projects or things to do?

Want to hear a rags to riches, Horatio Alger story? Here’s how John Sonmez’s blog catapulted him to glory.

Blogs are measure of growth.

I think this is Kushal’s second post (a college kid) in 2004.

Today junies came to the hostel. Now it sems that we r being ragged by our management. Carrersangi’s work will be started after 16th of this month.

Today, nearly eighteen years later Kushal speaks of moving on, and touching new heights with his career and defending online rights in India.

Reading his blog through the years, shows you a clear through line as he made his way in the world, what he learnt, where he went, what he did and how he got to where he is.

Reading Dave’s blog shows how he rolled his way from xml to rss to blogs to podcasting to oulining tools over the years. A neat summary at Brent’s page.

This could be you too …

And while all those are good and valid external reasons, my favorite reasons to have a blog, to write regularly are the internal ones.

Writing sharpens your mind.

  • You start writing.
  • You write a lot of puff.
  • You get into the habit of writing.
  • You gain discipline.
  • You gain mental clarity.
  • You think critically
  • You gain deep understanding of your thoughts as you put pen to paper (or keys to screen)
  • You learn how to communicate those thoughts in a manner that is assertive, yet open to feedback
  • Your learn to get to the heart of the idea.

And these are the reasons, the real reasons, you ought to learn to write.

Seth Godin concises it better than I ever could.

If no one reads your post, does it exist? What do most people get out of blogging? After all, most blogs are virtually unread by outsiders…

The act of writing a blog changes people, especially business people. The first thing it does is change posture. Once you realize that no HAS to read your blog, that you can’t MAKE them read your blog, you approach writing with humility and view readers with gratitude. The second thing it does is force you to be clear. If you write something that’s confusing or in shorthand, you fail.

Respectful and clear. That’s a lot to get out of something that doesn’t take much time.

[1]Now that you’re learning here, it will be :)
[2]Inventor of RSS, Blogging & Podcasting and the longest running blog on the net

2. Blogs, how do you set one up?

This is the simplest section of all.

You could, of course, if so inclined, do your research and figure out what you want amongst the 3 major platforms and 7–10 minor ones. Paid, free, hosted, self hosted, Github pages … hours of fun :)

Or if all of this sounds intimidating and scary, simply go sign up for a free account and start up a blog at Wordpress.

The important thing right now, is to actually get something up and running with minimal fuss, so that you can start writing regularly.
You can always move to something you want later.

Click here to get started.


3. Tactical Advice

In order to have a good blog, in order to write well …

  1. You must want to write.
  2. You must make the time to write.
  3. You must Write. A lot.
  4. Write on a schedule.
  5. Consistency is key. In fact, in the beginning consistency matters more than quality. Have a rhythm. Once a day, twice a week, every other day. And then show up. Stick to the rhythm.

That’s it. Everything below is just frosting on the cake.

Structuring and writing a post.

  1. Make a template to write to. Use it over and over. Here’s a simple one. Search for more. Make your own. It’s just an aid, so that you don’t have to scratch your head wondering how to write, when all you want to want do is write …
    1. Title
    2. Short introduction
    3. Write what you wanted to write
      • Write about What
      • Write about Why
      • Write about How
      • Write about When
    4. Give an example
    5. Summarise and conclude
  2. Get to being creative.
  1. Write like you’ve solved the biggest problem in the world.
  2. Create obstacles and then solve them.
  1. Use titles and subtitles.
    1. Make the post scannable (a reader should get the gist, just reading the sections and subsections)
    2. Try to flow from one section to the next
    3. There’s reason daily soaps cut in the middle of a scene
    4. Emphasize items of importance
  2. Use paragraphs
    1. Do short lines
    2. Make them punchy!

General writing suggestions

  • As you grow, niche down. (general suggestion for a professional blog). Go from a something you’re learning about to something you become an authority on.
  • Yes, other people have written about what you have. But no one has your voice. So if you feel like writing about it, write about it.
  • Use grammar and punctuation well.
  • Use a grammar checker.

    Warning

    Note of caution. If you’ll be using Grammarly, only use the Grammarly website. Don’t install the browser extension. (Those can let someone, snoop into everything you type or do in your browser.)

  • Use a Style Guide.

  • Get to know them well.

  • Know these are only conventions. Break them at will :)

And in the end, while it is your blog, don’t let it be about you.
It’s about your journey.
The obstacles you faced.
How you overcame them and how you seek to help others with the the wisdom and experience you’ve now gained.

Junot Diaz has good advice

What advice would you give to aspiring writers trying to decide their next move?

Do aspiring writers need any more advice?
Alright, you asked so I should answer.
Here’s all I got:
Read more than you write, live more than you read.

4. Bonus Reference

Just as I was done with this little section, Seth Godin released an episode about blogging on his podcast.

And obviously, he does a much better job than me, explaining the whys and wherefores of blogging.

You can find the episode and the entire transcript here.