Whether you are just getting started with a programming language and a tech stack, or if you have 10 years of experience already and building complex scalable apps, you need to have a blog. And there are different reasons for why depending on your skill set.
And I will preface this article by saying that I don't mean you need to code a blog, because believe me, it's probably more trouble than it is worth. Though I don't regret coding this blog from the ground up, I will say that it is years of work to build something that is secure, fast, web-friendly, seo-friendly and scalable. And that is still a work in progress.
You can code a blog if you'd like to, but in this article I'm focusing on just having a blog with your name on it. Whether you go through WordPress.com directly or through a shared server with a custom install, or whether you use a blogging platform like Ghost, as long as you configured something and have it online, that's the key.
Looks good on your portfolio
Most employers are looking for any standout feature that a potential employer may have. These days almost everyone has some kind of portfolio website online. Which is a great start. But it is very limiting in showing off your skills.
Typically, most portfolios have an image of yourself, a bio, and a few links pointing to GitHub repo's. Again, good to have. But when everyone has that exact same thing, it gets challenging again to find the standout individual.
A blog looks good for a variety of reasons. For one, it shows that you are active on the web. If you actually have content that is. If you don't have any articles published, then it might be best to just not include it.
But if you do, then it can speak volumes. I can take a quick glance at an article and get a much better idea of what you know and who you are and what technologies you are working on currently.
Keep your skills sharp
There is a lot that goes into managing a blog, even if you aren't coding it yourself. Just maintaining a blog will teach you about content management, SEO, optimization and site configurations.
All things that you are probably going to encounter in your typical 9 to 5 job. Particularly, if you work in the web development field.
It also helps you to really be the master in a particular field. You might think that you know something well, but it isn't until you attempt to break it down to someone else that you realize you only know parts of it.
If you do choose to code your own blog, then I assure you, you will challenge yourself daily. It may look like an article is simply just a title with a few paragraphs and images. But the management of that content requires heavy software.
For example, articles need some kind of tagging mechanism so that users can better locate relevant and related content. You need to track whether articles are either drafts, published or deleted.
You also have comments, messaging, landing pages, so on and so forth. All things which require time to code and to think up.
Technical writing skills
The more you do anything, the better you get at it. That includes technical writing, which is different from your regular writing.
Writing in general follows a certain kind of storytelling arc, most of the time. You have an introduction, a beginning, middle and an end.
Technical writing is not that. It's for one, not linear. It's highly descriptive and complex much of the time using keywords and vocabulary that you typically don't use on a day to day basis.
- Must be included at the top of the page
- Not supported in older browsers
- Makes undeclared variables throw an exception
- So on..
There is no real beginning, middle or end in those statements. They are all valid and can go in any order. And you can dive deep into each one to give more details. But you also can't simply just jumble up content either. You have to take your audience into account as well. Are you writing for a more senior experienced crowd or an entry level crowd.
Technical writing, much like anything else, is a skill that you slowly develop with every paragraph that you write. And that you edit over and over as things change.
Learn by teaching
The biggest benefit that I have had with running this blog, and that I still continue to see daily, is that it gives me an outlet to write about what I am learning. Because odds are, there is someone out there that a year from now is going to benefit from whatever it is that you wrote.
The old saying of the best way to learn is to teach holds very true. By writing down whatever it is that you are trying to learn, in your own words, you are pretty much solidifying into your memory. And the more you do it on a particular topic, the more adapt you become at it.
Just recently I began the initial steps towards a NoSQL migration of this blog.
As I am in the middle of that process, I am also writing about it. I am taking screenshots and looking for the cracks in the process that aren't clear. I can then write about these things to you the reader and to the readers in the future who will inevitably run into the same issues that I ran into.
You only learn something one time. And it can be a huge benefit to capture that moment in written word as you are experiencing it.
The year is still young and more and more people are stuck at home needing something to read. So find your favorite blog publishing platform and at a minimum, sign up and see where it goes.