Why Aren’t You Writing Online?

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Why Aren’t You Writing Online?

If you're a developer you should be writing online somewhere. It keeps you sharp and and it keeps you learning.

· Agile Zone ·
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One of the things I’ve found suprising whilst working with DZone is the seeming lack of tech blogs in the universe. All the people in our MVB program get syndicated into one big giant feed. And there really isn’t that much content!

I strongly believe that writing online is one of the most important things you can do for your tech career. Here’s why:

1. It Puts You Out There

I think one of the reasons a lot of people don’t write blogs is a fear that they will be speaking out into the void. They’ll put some content up and no one will ever see it.

Let’s for a second assume that’s true (it isn’t and I’ll explain why shortly). Even if no one ever reads your stuff then you still have a repository of material that you can point recruiters and other potential employees to. It shows that you’re using your brain and that you have an opinion, and having an opinion is one of the most important traits of a senior developer. Putting your website on your CV or business card means someone can go there and see what you’re about, what you stand for, what you’re up to, and what you know. That’s valuable in itself.

The reality is you won’t be shouting into the void either. As long as your site is registered on Google Webmaster tools even if you do zero promotion you’ll eventually get indexed and start to appear in the rankings. Places like Bing and Yahoo have very poor algorithms that mean any post can get to the number one spot with very little effort. You’ll start to see some traffic trickle through.

It’s easy to promote your stuff as well. If you’re spending the time to write these posts you should be proud and want to show them off. The easiest place is Reddit; pop your post on whatever the relevant subforum is (e.g. /r/Java) and watch the hits roll in. Reddit is a finnicky beast though; it’s better to hang around for a bit and post on some other topics before posting your own on there, or else you’ll be downvoted to oblivion. A little interest in the community can go a long way.

DZone is genuinely a great tool (I’m not being paid to say this). You can submit posts on your site and they’ll go into the big article feed where people can up and downvote them. You can register for the MVB program where DZone will repost your blogs and guarantee you an audience (with links back to your blog). Or you can even write directly for DZone! It guarantees people will see what you have to say.

2. It Makes You Try New Stuff Out

I have a strict schedule of putting two posts out a week. I’m at a particular disadvantage as I’m travelling at the moment and don’t have a day job to write about, but I’m forced to look at new technologies to play with to write about. And it’s awesome! I always found it hard to check out new tech and libraries purely for the sake of checking them out — I need a purpose to motivate me. Writing a blog post is that purpose. It’s well established that teaching is a great way to learn about new things as well. I’ve been able to play with and learn Dropwizard, Wiremock, and Grafana along the way which I wouldn’t have otherwise. You have to prepare to get a few things wrong (I got a few scathing comments when I incorrectly named the ELK stack in this post), but overall it keeps the brain active and you constantly learning. This can only help your career as you can bring new things to the table in the day job.

3. It Makes You Formulate and Explain Your Opinions

It would be too hard for me to churn out new technology posts every single time, if only for simple time constraint reasons. As a result a lot of my posts are opinion pieces, often around code style, approach, or design.

When putting this sort of thing down to paper (or screen) you have to conciously take a position and explain yourself. This is difficult for sure but I guarantee it throws you out as a better developer on the other side. For me one of the most important facets of a senior developer is to have opinions and to be able to back them up and explain them. One of the best developers I have ever worked with is incredibly opionated and has a strong explanation for every single one of them. It can be incredibly frustrating sometimes, but if you can prove him wrong he will happily change his mind which is the ideal for a tech lead.

Writing a regular blog is enabling me to take the steps towards this level of seniority. I have always had strong opinions on stuff (always in beta and happy to change), but when it comes down to really explaining them to someone I often faltered and struggled to do them justice. Each and every opinion I write about I have to be able to fully justify and explain over the course of 700-1000 words.

That’s not to say everyone agrees with me. I’ve in fact discovered that disagreement is the main reason people will bother to comment. And that’s fine. You’re never going to get everyone to agree, and for every sensible comment there’s going to be two from trolls. You learn to accept and get past this.

4. It Will Get You Noticed

Throw enough stuff at the wall and eventually something’s going to stick. Not everything you write will be gold but some pieces will be brilliant and they will get noticed, you just need to be patient. My most popular post ever was one called “Why I Hate Spring”. Whilst it had always been popular on my personal blog (popular being relative, as my blog had very little traffic) about 2 years after writing it someone picked it up and reposted it somewhere (reddit or twitter or DZone, not sure where the origin was yet) and it blew up. My website had 3000 hits in a day (and it had only had about 6000 in 3 years) and many more in the various other places it was posted. I actually got into discussions with the leaders of Spring. It was a pretty landmark moment.

Since writing with DZone (and the much larger audience that it brings than my blog) it’s gotten me noticed a lot more. In my day job (that I’m on sabbatical from) the posts get regularly syndicated and discussed internally, increasing my profile which can only be a good thing. It contributed to me landing my first ever conference talk at Redhat DevNation in June. It’s allowed me to get into conversations with the guy that invented Google Docs along with key community members in Spring, JavaEE and other areas.

So if you don’t have a blog you’re regularly posting to yet, why not start now?

blogging, career, career advice

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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