Encouraging others to write blog posts

Helen Anderson on November 07, 2018

For the last couple of months, I’ve been quietly blogging here and cross-posting to my workplace blog as well. I’ve been found out. The... [Read Full]
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Oof. If you manage to crack the code of getting developers to actually blog for you, let me know. At my last job I spent two years promoting the blog internally, and I got maybe five or six drafts in that entire span. Just the other day at my new job, a coworker came up with a stunning piece of documentation, complete with diagrams he made himself, on an undocumented AWS Fargate thing. I said that it would make an excellent blog post and he should just copy/paste the thing he already wrote to something public facing, and he reacted with a mixture of embarrassment and dread.

I don't understand the reluctance to blog! Does anyone have any insight here?

 

Very recognisable!

My 2c; I think we experience that embarrassment/dread because we know other people are going to see and judge our work, and we worry that they will judge it much more harshly than they actually will. Maybe that's the expectation that comes from spending more time on Hacker News than on DEV ;)

But seriously, perhaps a solution is to tell people that their work IS good enough, it IS comparable to the voices already out there, and to give our friends and co-workers permission and authority to be a voice in their field.

There's a theory that we're all more reluctant to make art because of the rise in AAA+++ media and the decline of local/folk art. The antidote could be to expose people to more relatable-quality media exactly like what we have here on DEV!

 

I don’t mind a little criticism, it makes me really proof read my posts as I know someone will respond (kindly) pointing out what I’ve missed.

The more you publish the easier it becomes.

 

I know at a previous job I was one of the people being reticent about posting blog entries, largely because it's kind of big and intimidating to think posting your own thoughts for public, uncontrolled consumption if you're not used to it—and sometimes even if you are. That, and I know a lot of people who don't think they have anything to talk about that hasn't been covered before.

I think it helps to approach people with the seed of something, like, "a walkthrough of that big feature you implemented to explain why it's a big deal to laypeople" or "write-up of how we made the decision to pick this technology over that technology." The way I was initially sold on doing conference talks might also help, here, too, for people who've already written stuff but can't be persuaded to post it—just because you're not the only one who can talk about a subject doesn't mean that you can't talk about it in a uniquely useful or engaging way.

 

Yikes, that doesn’t sound promising. My gut feel is there will be two of us doing it because we love to write but it will be a challenge getting others on board.

I will report back!

 

I wouldn't be too worried if that's the case, to be honest. There's a lot of challenges to "team" authorship, and having fewer writers makes it easier to control voice and content planning.

One strategy to raise the profile of the team members without "team" authorship (if the team members want to have high profiles) might be to publish just in the company voice, using quotes/cameos of your team members individual contributions?

One critical thing to add is that blog-writing and editing should be a high-level on-the-clock task. I've made that mistake a lot of times personally, which meant stuff doesn't get published either by myself or by other teammates, because you just don't find the time to write, and the post quality is lower because you aren't taking your time.

 

At a previous company one of the marketing folks would go around and ask people if they could write something. After a while he had a pipeline of steady posts lined up and people got into the habit.

I'm not sure how you bootstrap that process though. When I joined the culture was already established and all people had to do was basically hand in a draft.

 

It’s tricky for sure.

We have a Slack channel for our external blog but it’s a struggle getting people away from their day jobs to write technical documentation let alone a blog post.

Handing in a draft for consideration sounds like less of a barrier to entry, I’ll just need to think about who it falls to to polish the final product

 

At the place where we would hand in a draft the edits and extra polish would come back to the original author after it was reviewed. So the work was still done by the author but they had some help with polishing it.

 

Atomic Object have a highly successful company tech blog at spin.atomicobject.com/

Their technique as I understand it, is that blogging is mandatory for every employee every x days where x = num_of_employees. So from director to intern, it's your turn to blog every 50ish days.

Secondly, there is a countdown to everyone's blog post deadline on the information radiator in their public space. And I'm told that if you miss your blogging deadline, you're "told, not completely ironically" that you are "failing the company".

Clearly that takes a company-wide push that involves everyone and is approved and enforced at every level of organisation. Not everyone can do that!!

I'm currently working my last ever day(!) at Village Software, where we've overhauled our blogging method along similar lines but not so frequent and not so strict.

We have a room in Teams (i.e. Slack) where we co-ordinate blogging topics, resources, and publication pipeline. This helps to support people in writing their posts.

I hope that helped a little? Good luck with your blogging program, looking forward to your colleagues great posts!

 

Thank you! That’s great advice.

Making it a mandatory task sounds like the way to go, even if we had one person blog a week that wouldn’t be too much of a burden over a year. Maybe two per person per year for our teams current size.

I also agree that having someone further up the chain on board and also participating will help.

Thanks again, that’s such a helpful strategy. If I just leave it to volunteers I imagine it will go nowhere.

 

As a product manager, I encourage developers to tackle pet projects by creating mini manifestos (like developer's PRD) to tell us Business stakeholders why they need to make something.

Don't worry, we usually allocate time to do the thing. But once the mini-manifesto is made, we clean it up and wait until the thing is done....to make a blog! :)

 

It'd be great if my team saw any value in a blog. But they don't. I have my own small one... But I just find it insane that my lead dev won't blog about all the really interesting and complicated things he understands how to do, and that I see so many people ask about.

I mean in the end you learn a lot through other peoples blog.

 

I find I learn a lot both from reading other people's blogs AND, maybe more so, from writing my own posts.

 

So many reasons in the comments why it is hard to get people to blog. Great way to identify the various blockers at prevent people from writing.

At my current workplace, there is monetary incentive for blogging in our company blog. And since that incentive started, I’ve seen many people start to blog. Even really short blogs that show a quick tip or insight.

I think a monetary incentive is the best form of reward for blogging because at least you were rewarded even though your blog might not get a lot of views.

On the other hand, it’s great value for the business. Win-win.

 
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