I started blogging about software development a little over a year ago, so in this post I want to take a step back and share what my experience has been like.
This post exists partially to serve as a sort of time capsule for myself, so I can come back in the future and see what I was thinking at this point in time. But I also hope that others who have been blogging for a similar amount of time, or those who are thinking about getting started, can use this as a sort of case study to see what it's been like for me.
If there's anything you're doing that could improve my process, I hope you'll leave me a comment.
There wasn't one particular reason I started blogging. I had been thinking about getting started for a while, and just eventually decided to take the plunge.
I've always enjoyed writing, and in 2019 I attended a blogging workshop by Ali Spittel at the conference All Things Open. While I had already been thinking about writing about software, this workshop provided me with some concrete steps I could take to get started.
I was looking for some ways to build out a portfolio and do some in-depth explorations of topics that interest me, so blogging felt like the right path for me.
While I haven't met all of the goals I set for myself, I'm pretty proud of where I am right now. Since I decided to start blogging, I've...
- Created a blog using Hugo, which I host with AWS S3
- Been published in css-tricks
- Started a series to teach Elixir
- Improved my presence on GitHub
- Started a new full-stack web dev job (the blogging helped me land it)
- Made a bread ratio calculator web app that seems to be getting a steady amount of traffic from search engines (not many users, but a fairly consistent amount)
I do most of my writing in Notion, which I also use to jot down ideas and make prioritized lists for what I'm going to write about.
Once the post is finished, I export it as a markdown file. I then copy the markdown file into my Hugo static site, make a cover image with Affinity Designer, and import any necessary images or videos into the post.
Once I deploy my updated site, I copy the markdown into Dev and post it using a canonical url.
Sometimes I'll tweet links to my blog posts, but I'm not very active on twitter and don't have many followers, so I'll often skip this step.
As a beginning blogger, there was a lot I had to learn. In this section, I'll discuss the areas where I've identified gaps in my knowledge or abilities, but haven't yet had the opportunity to fill them.
I don't know much about SEO and keyword research. I don't plan on changing what I write about based on things I learn from this (I enjoy writing about whatever I feel like writing about) but it would be nice to know ways to improve my headlines and add certain keywords to make my writing easier to find. The most I've done in this regard is using Google Search Console to fix any errors that were detected and making sure my blog is AMP compatible.
I've been struggling to get any sort of conversation or constructive feedback on my posts. I attributed some of this to not asking the reader any questions in my earlier posts, but I've been trying to do that more lately and haven't seen much improvement.
I've heard from others that Twitter can be a great place for the type of discussion I'm looking for, but it doesn't seem like it would be effective if you don't already have a following (plus I'm not thrilled with the idea of spending a lot of time on Twitter).
I've had some trouble regularly finding time to write blog posts amid my daily life. I'll have a stretch for a few weeks where I'm putting in a little bit of time each day, but then life happens and I get thrown off track. I'm still trying to figure out the right balance where I can be continually making progress on my blogging and other side projects, but without having a severe impact on other ways I wish to spend my time.
I use Google Analytics to track my blog's performance, but I find these numbers to be pretty unreliable since I keep getting hit with referral spam. Is anyone else experiencing the same? If so, do you know a good way of dealing with this?
When I write about projects that I've made, I notice a pretty big disparity in the number of views compared to my tutorials.
I think this is because my tutorials more clearly provide value to the reader. In upcoming posts about projects, I think I'm going to change my structure from "I built x, look how cool it is" to "This is how I built x using y, and here's how you can do it too."
Do you write about your personal projects? What techniques do you use to make sure you're providing value to the reader?
In addition to posting on Dev, I've also started putting some of my content on Hashnode. I had heard that it was a great platform with a solid community, and while I'm sure other people have had a great time there, it doesn't feel like my posts get any sort of traction there.
Whenever I post to Hashnode, it feels like I'm just posting it into a void. The view counts are dismal, I haven't had a single comment on any of my posts there, and the only time I had any reactions was when one person reacted several times to the one post.
I'm not sure whether the Hashnode community is smaller than the one on Dev, if it's harder to get their algorithm to recommend your posts, or if the audience there simply doesn't align with the topics I'm posting about. I might give it another chance in the future, but for now it just doesn't seem to be worth the effort for me.
Overall, I've really enjoyed blogging and want to continue writing posts long-term over the course of my career. While I've run into some challenges and it can take a lot of time and effort, it's been a rewarding experience.
How long have you been blogging? What made your experience different? Let me know in the comments!
If you liked this, you might also like some of my other posts: