One year ago a friend and I started a challenge.
The challenge was to write at least one blog post every week.
The person who would not make would need to buy the other person a big pizza and a good beer at our favorite pizza restaurant. Besides that, the blog post needed to be at least 300 words long.
Before that, I was writing a blog post maybe once a month. Also learning new things was hard to do consistently.
So we started one year ago. We soon after decided to post our blog posts on dev.to.
At first, finding a topic was not that hard but writing a good blog post and having a structure was hard. Also, people commented a lot about typos and grammar.
With every blog post, this got easier. Finding the right structure and style comes very naturally to me. Regarding the typos and grammar, I used Grammarly Pro. This tool even if it was miss leading at some point helped more then it was in my way. Now after one year I make way fewer typos and my written grammar is better but still far away from perfect and I still use Grammarly Pro to help me to write better.
I would highly suggest writing your blog post with Grammarly Pro or Google Docs. For me, these are the best tools. I really did not like Microsoft Word. It had too many false positives.
So with time, it got harder and harder to find topics that are
a) engaging for people to read
b) to research and write in a week
c) I myself would like to read
Finding the right balance to match all of these criteria was harder and harder. I wanted to write about some topic but the research alone, understanding and, implementing some sample code would take longer than a week. So some blog posts needed either to be dropped completely or split into parts.
Also, some topics are so outlandish that nobody would read them. Of course, I could ignore that and just write what is interesting to me but then I would not give any value back to the people and have lower engagement. It was nice to see that people liked it and even fellow devs would talk to me about my blog posts.
So at some point, I was optimizing my topics to be a little bit more clickbaity and be more general, so that I could reach more people. It worked well but it also got the attention of some people who were pointing out the clickbait.
Now I have a mix of topics that converted followers good and topics that don't do well at all but are fun to write. They are still doing better than they did in the beginning.
It is an art to write a title that is engaging but also not clickbait. Finding the right balance is not that easy. It is very easy to write a title that sounds like clickbait and it is also easy to write a title that people would never click on. When people commented that it is to clickbaity I would usually ask them to come up with a better title usually they couldn't.
You also have to factor in vacations. These were the hardest to write. Either the week before I would prepare at least two or three of them or I would write them while I was on vacation with my wife. You can imagine how she liked it. The biggest problem even I had the blog post prepared was to reach dev.to to post from China. I still don't know how I managed this.
To help me to come up with topics I one day looked at some blog posts and decided to make series out of some. My favorite is
CSS Quickies where I take on CSS Property and try to explain it. Another series was about VS Code and probably the most popular and most clicked.
Creating a series with a standard workflow is also very helpful. It can streamline your process of working even more and was a good tool to write blog posts when you knew you didn't have to much time.
Coming back to the 3 points to keep in balance: It is not possible if you tune one of them then some other will go down. This is why I started to focus on 2 of these 3 points for every blog post. Do I want to write about VS Code? Not really but people love them. Do people want to read about nestjs? not really but I like the framework.
I always wanted to give people value and explain everything that everybody would understand. Of course, this is not possible because you will never hit 100% but that's fine.
One important point was also that if I had code examples or languages I would write about, that it had examples and the examples were easy to execute and follow.
Also, I would try to explain more how to think like a developer not only explain how the solution works. Practical and real-world examples were always welcome. It comes back to the value I want to give back.
Let us talk numbers. As of the writing of this article I have 32k followers on dev.to 11k reactions and 681k views.
I don't know if this is good or bad and, to be honest, I don't care too much about these numbers. What is more important what comes out of these numbers.
A lot of people were writing to me regarding many things: Help, collab, cross-posting, freelance work, and paid blog posts.
To be honest most of these requests are not good. Sadly at some point, I just started to ignore them. I only picked the things that I really thought that we could work together. No dev.to blog post was sponsored in some or another way.
I was nominated to be a top500 writer for 2019 on dev.to and good a present as a voucher for 50$ for the dev.to shop. I have bought a backpack that I use daily. Thanks dev.to
Some of my blog posts I cross-posted or linked back to dev.to. I used Facebook, Linkedin, Xing, Twitter, and Instagram. In my experience forget Facebook. Linkedin and Xing are okay but not that important. Instagram is a mixed bag. You can find great people at Instagram but 95% of the content and people think they are unicorns but they just copy and paste other peoples stuff or just take the 100 photos of there workspace with no real value or you have
female developer where to focus of the picture is either below their head or some other parts which have nothing to do with coding. And yes the comments were usually the same quality. So yeah I'm more and more tend to ignore Instagram. The last thing on our social media list is twitter. Here usually you get the best value back. Post and don't forget to mention the dev.to account.
Regarding comments, I tried to answer and help if it was needed. Sometimes it was easy and sometimes it was hard. Like answering questions about what people should learn and do with there lives. It is really hard to honest these questions because you get no info about these persons. You could answer with some BS. No honest person can answer that question after 5 minutes. It takes way longer than that to understand the situation.
Did something change in my professional life? Not much but it helps in interviews when you can say that you write a blog post every week. This shows that you try to get better and that you learn new things. This is always a plus.
So whats next?
I'm thinking about starting a youtube channel.
I'm right now creating a course for a company.
I will not write weekly but I still want to post in a somewhat regular way.