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What's up Dev clan?
disclaimer: this is a "rant" and improvement proposal based on my opinion and experience using the DEV.to platform. These tips can be used on whatever platform you are posting on. All examples used are made-up, do not take this as a personal attack.
It's been over a month since I created an account on this platform and started visiting it regularly to share and read what is being shared. Over this last month I noticed two trends, the type of content that is published and how these posts are written.
To start with the first: Type of content. I realized that these are the main four types of contents I am seeing:
- The listicles
- The How-To's
- The rants
- The discussions
There is nothing wrong with your post falling under one of these categories. They make it much simpler to interact with and read about certain topics. Besides the types, there is how these posts are written. And to be fair, in my opinion much can be improved. Let's first list them.
The writing styles I see the most are:
- The lazy writing
- The unstructured
- The critic
- The "I'm not a native English speaker"
Why I am talking about these writing styles? Well, I have seen a lot of people saying that they think that the content quality on the platform is deteriorating, but they do not give advice on how to improve the content quality🤷♂️. And to some extent I agree. The content on the platform is becoming repetitive and of low quality.
So, here I am, trying to contribute to the community in a way that might increase the quality of the content. This post will go over some general tips that can improve your content in general, and how you can improve your post depending on the type of content you are writing (according to the ones listed above).
A canonical link element is an HTML element that helps webmasters prevent duplicate content issues in search engine optimization by specifying the "canonical" or "preferred" version of a web page.
You would like to use a canonical link to verify the original place of origin of your post in every other place you publish it. If your post was first published on your personal blog and then on dev.to, you are advised to use a canonical link that says that your personal blog is the original post.
I have seen a lot of people create a post with a compelling title: "How these 5 apps will make you a millionaire!". Once you click the post:
You don't see the contents of the post, you see a link pointing to the original post. You might just get frustrated and leave the post.
When you are republishing a post on a different platform, PLEASE don't be that author. You already have the post complete, just copy and paste your post content, and add the canonical link. This will allow your readers to read what they came for, "How these 5 apps will make you a millionaire!", instead of hopping from one platform to another just to read your piece of content.
Preview your content
People of dev. By now you should know that dev use markdown to edit posts and comments. When you are drafting/ writing your post, an advise is to write it in markdown. This will make your life much easier when posting on dev. You can legit just copy and paste your post's content into the dev editor and publish it. BUT WAIT, before publishing, preview your post. Come on, write it down so you don't forget: Preview my next post before I publish it.
By previewing your post, you can see and read the post with the style that it will have on dev. This will allow your to check and double check that everything is looking like how you intended. That your headings are right where they should be, that your images work and that your links redirect to the correct pages. By previewing your post and fixing the things that you think that needs fixing you will automatically increase the quality of your post.
Grammar and vocab
Now listen, like most of you all, English is not my native language. With English as your secondary or n+ language comes the hurdle of translating everything that you want to say to English. This may result in poorly written texts that does not have the right vocab or grammar. Please, do yourself a favor and let someone proofread your posts before publishing. This will allow you to get early feedback on both the content of your post and the linguistic structure of your post. Besides having someone proofread your post, use tools like Grammarly to assist you with the grammar and vocab in your post.
Oh sources. Whenever you are citing something from a source, the best practice is to write the original link in a reference list. This will give your readers a starting point to further read about a certain topic. This is especially helpful if you are talking about a broad topic, and you are not covering all the aspects of said topic.
By listing your sources you give proper credit to the ones that helped you write your piece of content, without them I'm pretty sure you either would have had a difficult time writing your content or you might have given up on it all together, so show them some love ♥.
With the general tips out of the way, let's take a look at how you can improve your posts based on its type. AGAIN, these are my recommendations, not rules that you should follow.
Firstly, you don't need to make a listicle for everything. Nobody cares about a list of pens you use to write down your To-Do's. A more interesting topic would be the system you use to tackle your To-Do's. Nowadays I'm seeing so many listicles about the same topic, that before opening a post I can guarantee that I can predict two or three items on that list.
Now if you decide that your post must be a listicle, let's dive into it.
No need for a long list
Come on, deep down you know it. You know that your 100 item list is not really worth it. People might start reading it, and at the 25th item just bookmark your post and move along with their day. Never to come back and finish reading the list. Long lists only makes it more difficult to get value out of your list. You are giving too much options. Next time you want to write a listicle and find yourself writing a long list, take a break. Analyze your content and be critical about it. Is each item on this list really that important? If your answer is "no", then remove that item from the list.
At the end of the day you will have a better curated list that is straight to the point and more importantly short and easy to read.
Don't just add links
I've seen this. "5 Play Store games to increase your mental capacity" (total bs example). When you click the post, it's just links to the games on Play Store. No image, no description, no intro to the post, nothing. If you are doing something, do it good or don't do it at all. If you are creating a list of whatever, give the reader a reason to read it. If your list is about cars, for each car on that list elaborate a little about it, what's the good of it, what's the bad and why they should care about it. After giving them a reason to GAF about the car, you give them a link to the car.
Give your list a personality
Like I've mentioned before, I am seeing a lot of lists about the same topics. If you want to make another list about VS Code extensions, go for it. Just realize that there are a thousand out there already, and they all might have the exact same extensions listed as the ones you will be listing. Just take this advice: Make it your list. Create a list about the extensions that you use, how they are of use to you. When I read your listicle about these extensions I should understand what your opinion is on these extensions, what you like and what you don't like about them. Why you are recommending them.
While I am at it, I should say this. Create lists based on things you've used or are planning to use. Don't just find a list out there and:
Rants, we all like them. We all have things that we don't like and want to express our frustration about them. This post started as a rant about poorly written posts😅. But while we each have a right to express our opinions, we should be aware of the consequences of doing so.
Most platforms have a Code of Conduct, a list of rules that you should follow to help keep the platform healthy and inclusive. These rules help both you and the readers have a place where you can feel comfortable. Here is the CoC of dev.to, take a look at it. Please as a writer, help enforce the Code of Conduct. In your rant posts, don't attack a certain person, attack the problem. Don't write a post attacking one specific individual, attack the action that the individual did. This will allow for a broader discussion about the topic, rather than discussion about the individual or what they posted. Do you see where I am getting at? Your rant should encourage a conversation on the bigger picture, not that one issue you encountered.
Your rant, your opinion
Remember that your rant is purely based on your biases and your opinion. This means that people might agree with you, but at the same time, they might strongly disagree with you. When you choose to go on a rant, remember that you are putting yourself in a difficult position where you might become the one getting criticized. Choose wisely what you put out there, and the approach you take when critiquing something.
How-To's, they vary from tutorials, to people convincing you that you too can become a millionaire in 7 days. Point is, these should be posts giving you a detailed walkthrough on how to achieve a certain result. And yet, I see some that don't do that.
Explain your point
If you are writing a tutorial, explain who is it for, what knowledge is required to follow it, and what they will earn from it. This will allow your audience to know exactly what they are getting themselves into. after making clear who your post audience is, tell them what they will be doing, and give an example of the finished result.
For you guys that are writing about how you achieved something and other people can do it too: tell them the whole story. Don't just be telling the start and finish, the highlights. Tell them about the "sacrifices" it took you to get there. You became a millionaire in 7 days? Tell them where you were before achieving that, tell them that you didn't sleep for 7 days, tell them about the tools that helped you get there, tell them it is extremely difficult, and you are lucky that you achieved that.
If you are writing a post explaining something, explain it in the more details possible.
Less self promotion, more how to
Don't write a post on a how to and just 90% of the time be advertising what you did. Write about how to achieved it. If you want to advertise your product, do that and use a title that reflects exactly that. Do not give it the disguise of a tutorial or a How-To.
Discussions, the posts where you can let your soul go wild in the comment section. These types of post rely on the interaction of the reader with the post. You as a reader give the post its importance. Your comments allow for the post to be called a discussion. And you as an author, should encourage the reader to comment on the post.
Give the reader a reason
I see a lot of posts with the discussion tag and a question as a title. When I open the post to find out more, all I see is a one-liner. One question. "Are you a developer or are you a software engineer?". As a reader what am I supposed to comment under this "discussion"? I don't have any idea where this is going.
As an author, you should lead your readers to a conclusion. Your listicle should lead them to use at least (or avoid) one of the things on the list. Your rant should lead your readers to the conclusion that you don't think that something is right, and that should let them think critically about the topic. Your discussion should lead them to share their opinion. In order to lead them to share their opinion, you should first give them a base to start with.
When writing a discussion, give your readers a context. This context helps the reader understand what the discussion is about, it leads them to the specific topic you want to discuss.
"Are you a developer or are you a software engineer?" Start with why you have this question, Are you trying to clarify the definition of the two job titles? Are you trying to see where you fit? Or are you looking at what the general public thinks about being the one or the other?
Your context guides the discussion.
Oh and by the way, I said give the discussion a context, do that. But don't write a lengthy context, you will loose your reader along the way. A paragraph explaining why you created the discussion is enough.
Yes or No is a no no
Do you write with pen or pencil? What would your answer to that question be? "I use pen" or "I use pencil". Et voila, your discussion is over. When creating a discussion, formulate your question (or "food for thought") in a manner that it does not simply elicit a yes or no answer from the audience. If you want a discussion, you need to have a conversation. To have a conversation you need more than just yes or no. You need a more in-depth answer. "Why do you use pen or pencil when you write?" Give your readers a reason to write more than just one word. It will make your discussion more engagement-friendly and you will (hopefully) get answers that add value to the discussion.
A discussion is not a one-way street
Have you ever encountered a post where there are lots of comments but the author is nowhere to be seen? Well, don't be that author. Engage with your readers when they comment. Your discussion is your playground to see how people think about a certain topic. If they comment, show them that you read their comment. If you want a little more explanation, ask them to elaborate further. Show your readers that you are interested in the discussion and in them.
Well, this is all I have for you guys. I hope that after reading this post, you will create and post the best content of your life. Go on, write your posts, share them and thank me later🤣
By the way, if you're reading this, like this post.
Top comments (4)
Great article. The whole thing is very on point.
I have so much respect for those with English as a second (or more) language, as more often than not they at least try to be as correct as their skill level allows. If English is your native language and you don't put any effort into your writing, it is only natural to assume your coding is equally low effort and sloppy. Just as coding is recoding, writing is rewriting, so proofread, proofread, and proofread again before hitting that submit button. At the end of the day, mistakes are fine, but lack of effort isn't.
My biggest complaint about content on this site is the shameless companies treating the place like their own personal billboard. For example, grab any article with SEO in the title and I'll bet money it is going to be an overly long, buzzword filled mess that ultimately says nothing and ends with a link to their company SEO services; because why teach people something when instead you can make the topic seem confusing and trick a few people into paying for your services. Next to that, I'm fine with yet another person that legitimately wants to share the awesome VS extensions they think no one else has ever heard of.
I can only laugh at this🤣 but for real, props to all the bilingual people out there!
Words of the wise🧙♂️
Thank you for reading!
Oh boi, massive effort! 😱🙌🏻 You pretty much nailed every last bit of this!
Many of the things you discussed here have been on my mind recently. Sometimes I see many discussions out there that lack context or depth. "Do you use X?" My answer: "NO". Seriously, I have been engaging less and less on here because the discussions are a little bland.
The one point you mentioned that hit home like no other was the VS Code extension listicle blogs! 😂😂😂 I thought I was clairvoyant, but turns out everyone is using the SAME fudging extensions. Can we please stop talking about extensions now? It's a hard fact that we all use the same ones. Period 🤪
Really hope some folks learn something from this post. Thanks for sharing this piece! 🙇🏻♀️
That was the thing that made me start writing this piece in the first place, the discussion were fun and interesting, but lately, I find that they are just there to be there.
Thank you for reading!✌