Last night on Twitter I asked if anybody had questions about starting to blog. Answers on Twitter tend to get lost, so I thought this was a good opportunity to write down some answers here! I'm also totally willing to answer questions in the comments as well!
I stay mostly motivated by a) loving to write and b) loving the response that I get to my writing. It feels awesome to help somebody who is learning or for someone to see a different side of a topic. A lot of my posts are topics that have been covered before, like CSS or React, but I can talk about them from a different angle and bring my own perspective. Even if nobody else reads your writing, it's often helpful to write just for your own sake in order to reinforce your knowledge. Writing about errors can be really helpful for someone coming along too! I tend to write posts that would have helped the me of a few years ago, but I know other writers write stuff that is more geared towards their current programming level.
I'm obviously biased here, and have had by far the most success writing here on DEV. I've also crossposted to Medium and hosted my own blog, and had success in both places as well. The hard thing with Wordpress is the maintenance -- it takes a lot of work to get up and running, costs money to host, and then you have to keep the platform up to date. Launching my own site was a lot of work, and while it was worth it at that point, I had been writing for a while and knew that I liked publishing tech articles at that point. I would at least write here (and maybe crosspost to Medium) for a bit before putting in all the time to create your own blogging site.
Joseph Whittington@the_whittington@ASpittel How do you decide on topics for a blog post?03:21 AM - 07 Feb 2019
I keep a running list of topics I think would be fun to write about. Whenever I have an idea I write it down so I remember it. I like writing intro level/broad articles mostly so usually beginners guides to a concept or my take on a topic. I started writing with a theme: I'd learn a new piece of technology, build something with it, and then write about it. There's an endless supply of tech to learn, so the topics were the easy part! I have more about this here:
You can also check out the following tag to see requested posts!
Jason Ruhlin@softengjason@ASpittel Hi Ali! How best, does a full-time developer and father find the time needed to be a consistent and quality blogger? Just want to see what your perspective would be on this type of time constraint.18:13 PM - 07 Feb 2019
This is a hard one! Everyone's life circumstances are very different, so I definitely can't answer for everyone. But, what I do is mostly write on Sundays. I'll go to a coffee shop and just crank out a post. There are some posts that take longer, but most of my non-tutorials first drafts took only a few hours. Then I'll edit the next morning before work. I would also say you don't need to be too hard on yourself to always be writing or to be super consistent. Maybe if you want to be a huge blogger, but not if you are writing for a different reason.
This post goes into that more:
danielle@danielle__lc@ASpittel For technical posts, do you tend to have someone else review your post before publishing? I'm thinking mostly in terms of reviewing for following best practices.15:38 PM - 07 Feb 2019
I personally don't, but that would be awesome if I had someone that would do that! I write a first draft, make sure all my code works, and then edit using Grammarly, then edit again manually!
This is a good question -- so I started writing on Medium in October of 2017 and nobody read my posts at that point (I wasn't posting in a publication or anything either). The DEV Community was pretty awesome to me and my posts started getting a lot more attention on here rather than there. Being on the front page was, at that point, my biggest traffic driver. I had around 100 twitter followers around that time.
I really focused on growing my Twitter, by being consistent, participating in chats, and sharing content that I felt was valuable to onlookers. Twitter is now huge for me and drives a lot of my traffic, both from my own account and people sharing my posts.
I'm also not shy about posting my articles multiple times on Twitter. I'll change up the tweets considerably each time, but I'll link to articles over and over again. Only a small % of your audience sees each tweet, so it's worth sharing a few times.
I've also had some luck on HackerNews and Reddit, which has led to outlier numbers on some posts as a result. I've posted a few of my own articles on HackerNews, but the posts that have done well on Reddit have been posted by other people.
I've tried other social media accounts, like Instagram and LinkedIn, but I haven't had that much luck there.
Also, posting to both Medium and DEV when I had my own platform was really helpful, especially once I got approved as a writer by the bigger Medium publications and my DEV following increased.
Hanane ❅@ASpittel How do you make that very first step that gets you started in blogging? I’m struggling with that at the moment. I just feel that if I come up with an idea, it’s not as good as what’s already there, if it makes sense? Also, how to stay innovative when coming up with ideas?03:41 AM - 07 Feb 2019
I had an idea for a post, which was creating art with CSS, and I really loved the BaseCS Series. I thought doing a similar challenge would be awesome. It turned out to be way too much work for me, but I still got started writing. I would say to just put something out there -- even if it's not perfect. I've published stuff with typos before, and usually, people don't notice or if they do they're nice about it. Your posts don't have to be perfect to help somebody.
SapnokiRani@_sapnokirani@ASpittel I'm going to ask what I asked my others friends too and they recommended you!
1. Should there be a template we follow when writing blogs?
2. What is a good length blog post? So that it's concise+informative
3. How formal should your writing be?
4. How technical should you get?05:30 AM - 07 Feb 2019
I don't follow a template for my posts! Every topic is different, so the format looks different for each one. That being said, I always include an intro, a conclusion, and lots of visual multimedia.
Generally 1,000-5,000 words would be the sweetspot. I usually do 2-3,000, they don't feel huge but also get a lot of information across. I think longer posts typically do better for search engine optimization too.
I write casually in my posts, it's where I feel most comfortable. I don't use text speak, but I do use the first person and contractions.
I think how technical you get depends on the post -- I show a lot of code in mine, but only in bitesized chunks. I also tend to really break things down.
Lasha Krikheli@lashakrikheli@ASpittel How valuable is getting other people to share your posts/tweets/etc.?
Thoughts on growing a mailing list in addition to a blog?04:49 AM - 07 Feb 2019
An email list is the most valuable thing you have for reaching out to people. That being said, I have a thousand person email list that I don't use because I don't love the format. I should probably figure out a way to reengage it though!
People sharing your content is super valuable, though if they have a personalized caption on it it's way more valuable! Usually just the title doesn't get that high of engagement.
Honestly, this is way harder than outside observers think. Dealing with one at a time is not too bad, but if you get an onslaught it's really tough to get through. I keep a log of positive comments, so I can look back on them when I get some tough ones. 99% of them are positive, though it can be hard to remember that! I will also filter stuff on social media sometimes, and have periodically had Reddit blocked on my computer. I think the positive so outweighs the negative. The negative sucks, but the positive is so, so positive!
I blog for a lot of reasons, mainly because I love teaching and the community aspect of it. I wrote a post with more on this topic last year!
I think this answered most of the questions since a lot were on similar questions! Again, feel free to ask any more in the comments!