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Pascal Thormeier
Pascal Thormeier

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How 1.5 years of writing posts on dev.to made me a better developer βœοΈβ†”οΈπŸ§‘β€πŸ’»πŸš€

I've been here for a while now. I love the community, the people are amazing and I learned so much while reading the amazing articles the authors on here have to offer.

I also write articles every other week (shocking news, I know) and today I want to get a bit more meta about it. I want to tell you how writing articles has actually made me a better developer. Let's jump right in.

Creativity 🎨

If you want your articles to be read by people, there's two things you more or less have to deliver: Usefulness and entertainment. I once read somewhere that a good tech talk is 60-80% entertainment and the rest is useful info about the topic. Although this is an opinion of someone, I think it has a very true core, also for the text medium. I love articles that are fun to read. I mean, who doesn't, really? If I want some info, I could read docs of topics, but when I browse articles on dev.to, the topic is the thing that grabs my attention, but I also stay for the fun.

Writing useful and entertaining articles on a regular basis means I have to get creative. Listicles write themselves, basically - and I'm also guilty of producing them every so often, I admit that - the next React to-do list tutorial is going to be read by people who want to get into the tech, yeah, but what's the fun in writing about that? I could write about the same exact topic for weeks on end (think: "React To Do list, but this time I'm only using my left hand!"), but people don't stick around for that, usually.

I think of myself as a fairly creative person. Writing and actually coming up with stuff to write about, though, greatly increased my creativity. And creativity is especially useful for a developer.

Developers need to be creative in order to find the solutions that work best. They need to be creative in order to support the people they work with, be it business, design, or a client. They need to be creative in order to strive. Understanding and applying logic is one thing, but creativity is a large part of the job.

Learning new stuff πŸŽ“

I've written a few articles on things I only knew a little bit about when writing. I even made it a thing once to document every step of learning a new tool called Snowpack or showing you what I've learned while messing around on Project Euler. Learning is an essential part of the job. If you're not switching jobs constantly or keep yourself busy with a ton of small side projects, chances are you're more or less focussing on a single tech stack that your company uses and get really proficient in that, while the outside world is constantly changing. New tools and techniques emerge and vanish again in the neverending cycle that software development really is.

And that can be an issue. Spoiler: Anyone's favorite framework or language are not going to stick around for the rest of their entire career. Unless you're doing Kobol or SAP, of course, those will stick with us for the next few centuries, probably.

Learning new things helps in different ways: You might find a new interesting tech stack to diversify your portfolio, you might find tools that could be useful some day (just had that exact case last Friday, actually!) or you might just learn a new paradigm that broadens your horizon in general.

People πŸ§‘β€πŸ€β€πŸ§‘

Seriously, when I started writing articles, I thought this would be a one-person-show for most of the time, trying to find inspiration myself, delivering to the masses where I barely know a face, let alone the names of people. Turns out I was as wrong as I could be! The people you get to know, either by joining a Discord server or two, reading other people's articles or by discussing with them in the comment section is amazing.

I just had an amazing call on Friday with someone I got to know through writing articles and reading theirs. We had a great exchange and figured we could help each other learn and reach our goals faster! This wouldn't have happend if I wasn't writing articles. This is, yet again, another learning opportunity for both of us. Which brings me to the next point:

Teaching πŸ§‘β€πŸ«

An old saying goes: "You truly understood something if you can explain it to others so they understand it as well."

And that's true! By trying to teach things in the tutorials I write and by explaining why I coded some things the way I coded them, I learn to question my own decisions and reflexes. There's go-to patterns everywhere, but maybe those are not the ideal patterns to begin with. Perhaps they're hard to understand and unnecessarily complicated. By trying to explain them, I question them. If they're too complex, I try to simplify or find a different way to solve a problem entirely.

It also helps me coach juniors or people in the bootcamps I sometimes attend as a coach. It helps me to explain technical decisions to non-technical people, making me at least look more senior.

Escaping the comfort zone 🎒

We all have our comfort zones. Some are smaller, some are larger, but we all know things we would rather not do. Be it because we think we're bad at it, or because we're actually bad at it, or because we're afraid people will judge us, you name it. Comfort zones exist and that's a good thing. They let us excell at what we're good at and let us avoid things we might break.

But getting out of the comfort zone every now and then is necessary in order to evolve. Writing, and also for some people the interaction with the community, forces one out of their comfort zone on a regular basis. Some people will hate your posts, others will love them, that's just how it works. You cant satisfy everybody at once.

Writing articles puts you on a stage. You might feel uncomfortable being on that stage (the comfort zone I was talking about), but after some articles you will want to be on that stage. The positive feedback you get will be amazing. And it helped me to get out of my comfort zone in other areas as well.

In the end

I told you about all the personal benefits I got of writing articles on dev.to. Perhaps you agree, perhaps you don't, perhaps it has inspired you to write articles yourself now! I'm certainly inspired now. And off I go to the next article draft!


I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it! If so, leave a ❀️ or a πŸ¦„! I write tech articles in my free time and like to drink coffee every once in a while.

If you want to support my efforts, you can offer me a coffee β˜• or follow me on Twitter 🐦! You can also support me directly via Paypal!

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Discussion (14)

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ingosteinke profile image
Ingo Steinke

Thanks for sharing your experience!

How much time would you spend per week for research, development, and writing?

While sometimes I find out new stuff due to customer requirements, and use the writing process (might be on DEV or when trying to file a bug or enhancement idea on GitHub) to refine my understanding, learning something entirely new (like a side project or certification training for a tech stack unrelated to my current every-day work) can take a lot of time and effort. So how do you manage to release good content on a weekly basis?

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thormeier profile image
Pascal Thormeier Author

Thank you for asking, this is a very good and central question to the entirety of content creation.

I only work 80%. That's more or less a left-over of my studies that I finished in May 2020, I simply learned to enjoy three day weekends a lot, but that didn't cut it. I felt unproductive. So I got into writing articles.

You might've already guessed that I spend that extra day for writing, usually that's Monday. I usually have 3 to 4 draft articles I work on in a pretty unstructured manner. Articles like these, those that don't contain any tech examples, take me a few hours maximum, including proof reading, deleting half it, writing it again and proofreading again. Proof reading can be done while sitting in a bus or the train as well, I consider public transport as "dead time" that can be used productively (you don't have to drive yourself, unlike a car).

When writing tech tutorials, I usually code the entire thing first. So, for example, my latest tutorial on different ways to teach a machine to play Tic-Tac-Toe took me some 8 to 16 hours to code out entirely and another 8 to 16 hours to make an article out of it. Sometimes I code something for a side project and think to myself "this would make a really good tutorial", so I re-code the thing in a standalone, more simple, less optimized manner (less optimization = less obfuscation = easier to understand) and then get going. This approach has the advantage that I can basically use an idea twice lol.

What I can recommend is to take notes whenever you're learning something new and want to write an article about it later on. Just a list of simple words or steps you've taken, but less detailed than what you would write in the finished article. You then already have a draft of the content and the rough structure of the article, rest is details, really.

Does that answer your question?

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ingosteinke profile image
Ingo Steinke • Edited on

Thanks Pascal, that sounds like a good way to work! I usually tell my customers I only work 4 days a week, which mostly means Monday to Friday when trying to fit in a company schedule as a freelancer, but often it also means still working on Fridays anyway, after doing some of my inspirational ~20% like learning, writing, walking or some other sort of "procrastination" before my weekend. (I learned to embrace procrastination as a good thing as long as I get enough work done).

I kept wondering how some people like yourself manage to post quality content on a regular basis. I also started to draft more than one article when I find time for writing, but as DEV's gamification (and rumors that algorithms in general tend to favor posting often and regularly) might push creators to rather strive for the "achievement" of a long weekly publication streak instead of focusing on quality content.

Your article appeared just in time when I was about to finish my rant about gamification favoring quantity over quality, so I thought you deserved a quotation as one example of how to publish a lot without sacrificing quality. That this is only possible if you have enough spare time for research and writing, was exactly what I suspected from my own experience.

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valeriavg profile image
Valeria • Edited on

Thank you for writing!
And especially for having fun while doing it.
Your articles and comments are a part of what makes this community warm, welcoming and educative 😊

Keep the flame up :-)

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thormeier profile image
Pascal Thormeier Author

Thank you so much! Can only give that compliment back, your articles and comments are always very inspiring!

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valeriavg profile image
Valeria

Thank you, let's hope you won't accidentally bump into my rants 🀣

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thormeier profile image
Pascal Thormeier Author

I love me a good rant every now and then, don't worry :D Everybody needs to vent from time to time and these rants give a good perspective on the bad aspects! Ranting articles for me are more of "things that made me angry that I want you, the reader, to look out for".

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thecodepedia profile image
Thecodepedia

❀❀❀

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

This is great to see!

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thormeier profile image
Pascal Thormeier Author

Thank you so much! The community you people have grown here is absolutely amazing.

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial • Edited on

I hope whoever you had a chat with on Friday was a charming and witty individual! πŸ˜‰

Agree with this 100% writing / any type of content creation should be part of (nearly) every developers week! β€οΈπŸ¦„

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thormeier profile image
Pascal Thormeier Author

Oh indeed, I enjoyed it very much and am looking forward to the next chat :D

As long as they got the capacity for it, that is. If people don't have the time to write full-blown articles, some Twitter/LinkedIn account with regular "This week I learned" posts already helps a lot.

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muhammadalhrake profile image
Muhammad Alhrake

Thanks for sharing ❀️❀️

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thormeier profile image
Pascal Thormeier Author

You're very welcome, glad you liked it! :)