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Sloan's Inbox: How to Approach Beginners Writing On Worn-Out Topics?

Hey y'all! Sloan, DEV Moderator and mascot. We're coming back at ya with another question submitted by a DEV community member. 🦥

For those unfamiliar with the series, this is another installment of Sloan's Inbox. You all send in your questions, I ask them on your behalf anonymously, and the community leaves comments to offer advice. Whether it's career development, office politics, industry trends, or improving technical skills, we cover all sorts of topics here. If you want to send in a question or talking point to be shared anonymously via Sloan, that'd be great; just scroll down to the bottom of the post for details on how.

Let's see what's up this week...

Today's question is:

Frequently, I see beginner dev writers being bashed for sharing posts on topics that have already been written on time and time before. Perhaps they're recreating a Tic-Tac-Toe app or posting yet another tutorial about how to create a pull request in GitHub... and often, there is someone (who claims to be more senior) leaving a snide remark about how they're fed up with seeing this subject be written on and pushing the writer to stop re-treading this worn out subject.

My question is two-part:

  1. Do you think it's okay for beginners to write on topics that have already been written on?
  2. What constructive advice can we give to beginner devs to encourage them to think outside the box and come up with new topics? How might we approach them in a friendly way?

Share your thoughts and let's help a fellow DEV member out! Remember to keep kind and stay classy. 💚

Want to submit a question for discussion or ask for advice? Visit Sloan's Inbox! You can choose to remain anonymous.

Top comments (11)

phalkmin profile image
Paulo Henrique

Do you think it's okay for beginners to write on topics that have already been written on?

Totally, please do. But write it. No ChatGPT. No copy and paste from another site or article. You learned something new and want to share it using your own words, that's commendable. Also, a more advanced post can use terms and concepts that a senior doesn't bother to explain, but you do.

What constructive advice can we give to beginner devs to encourage them to think outside the box and come up with new topics? How might we approach them in a friendly way?

Most of the time a simple Google search would be enough: "How much has this topic been covered? Am I able to give a new perspective to it?"

Also, whom are you writing to? Do you want to begin a discussion over a topic to understand it better? Do you think that it's important to share a "cautionary tale" about all the hardships you had to endure to configure a LEMP server, so new users don't suffer the same as you? Or do you just want to show off your new abilities?


Image description

ingosteinke profile image
Ingo Steinke, web developer

Go for it! Everyone is a beginner when they begin something new. If you're a senior professor, you would probably focus on publishing books and giving paid talks instead.

Yes, please read comments and correct mistakes. No, don't use ChatGPT. Yes, please be humble and honest.

I don't mind naive beginners' posts. I don't really mind promoting our own products either. But don't write another overconfident listicle that "EVERY developer MUST read".

miketalbot profile image
Mike Talbot ⭐ • Edited

As a way of demonstrating your learning, writing on a topic you've just learned is a way of cementing that knowledge, and seen as that, then it's certainly useful. If an article contains mistakes, these can be corrected by readers, furthering the author's learning. There is a "but" however.

Many articles on "well known subjects" by beginners do contain inaccuracies, sometimes serious misunderstandings. A site full of inaccurate articles is not a good reference point, it's not to be trusted. Having an untrusted site discourages more advanced writing because, well, why would you publish your profound insight, if your work is displayed next to fundamentally flawed material.

My advice to authors of all content would be to understand the comments you receive, further your understanding, and then EDIT YOUR ARTICLE so flaws and inaccuracies are removed. Avoid being defensive. Simply replying to comments isn't much use as many future readers will never read all of the comments and may leave the work with the wrong information.

grimkillingbeck profile image

" Do you think it's okay for beginners to write on topics that have already been written on?"

I don't see why not? It's always fun to see someone's perspective on how they worked through programming/coding. I like to read through someone's thought process, because it's almost like seeing things through their eyes.

How might we approach them in a friendly way?

I'm a beginner in some languages and for me, I would like a sandwich technique . For example, " I think you did a great job on this ... if you're looking for suggestions on how to take your coding to another level and help your portfolio stick out, try this ( project here)... but I feel youdid a great job explaining your thought process!"

yowise profile image

From my point of view, anyone is welcome to write on topics even if there have been also other posts on the same subject.
Whatever the reason might be, writing does help with the learning process and the notions, process cementing. Also, it's like a way to explain something to someone else (again, this falls into the reinforcement of learning) and creates an opportunity to connect with others.
Besides, writing is the form of expressing oneself without being interrupted (check the #beginner tag). Should this be stolen? No. Improved? Of course, like anything else.
Ultimately, why should someone refrain from writing just because it has been posted before?

As constructive advice for beginners, research (searching subjects, learning) represents a good way to start on writing something out-of-the box and not boring or "already seen" type. Everybody is beginner in something.

erikgiovani profile image
Erik Giovani

What I like when write about topics already written, is that there are a lot posts that don't know how to explain well and there are new ones that do it excellently.

mrlinxed profile image
Mr. Linxed

I think it is okay to write about topics that have been "worn out". You could be bringing new insights.

But the real reason you should be writing about these topics should be for self-learning. I often read that the best way to learn is to teach others.

So keep writing those posts about topics you've just learned about and want to anchor this knowledge in your brain a bit better.

But as some others in the comments have also mentioned, write it yourself. And don't write it for the views/likes/whatever. Write it for yourself.

montyharper profile image
Monty Harper • Edited

Gee whiz, if you don't want to read about something you've read a dozen times, don't click the link. There's certainly no need to gripe at the person for their choice of topic. Also, I don't think there's any need to give negative feedback at all. Unless the writer has specifically asked for an honest opinion on how they can improve, leave a positive comment or no comment at all.

A positive comment can be instructive. Make it specific and honest, and it can help shape a person's writing, much more than pointing out flaws. For example, rather than: "You know, tic tac toe is a tired old topic," you could say: "Unique lesson you drew from that experience. Thanks for sharing what you took away from it" -- or whatever else you may have appreciated about the writing.

deeheber profile image
Danielle Heberling

I wrote this a while back as a LinkedIn post, but I think it also applies to this question.

In the day and age of social media, I'm witnessing lots of people loudly trying to become an influencer.
The reality is that none of us know everything and we're all figuring it out as we go.
It's a disservice to the people who consume your content to represent yourself as an authoritative expert when you aren't. I'm immediately suspicious of folks who speak in absolutes. (Ex is terrible and no one should be using it)
I've got lots of respect for people who use these platforms to share their ideas but are open to new perspectives and learning.

Overall as a new person if you're doing this to further your learning, leave notes for future you, to help others out, to have some content out there to help you land that first dev thoughts are go for it! We all have unique perspectives and takes on things even if they are topics that have been heavily covered in the past.

If people don't want to read about the same topic, then they have the option to not click into the article.

bart97coder profile image

Intresting post

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