This post originally appeared in Human Infrastructure, a weekly newsletter for Packet Pushers members. You can sign up for free at Ignition.packetpushers.net.
There are lots of people in the tech community who have an inclination to write a technical blog, but never get around to it. In my experience, people have five general objections:
- I’m Not An Expert
- I’ll Get Things Wrong
- No One Will Read It
- I Don’t Have Time
- The Internet Can Be Hostile
These objections are valid, but they aren’t necessarily insurmountable. Here’s a few tips on how to overcome them.
1. I’m Not An Expert
Maybe you aren’t, but so what? Everyone knows something. Start with a subject you’re comfortable with, no matter how basic.
For example, if you’ve found a solution to recurring problem at work, write about that. I routinely see tweets from technical people who had a problem, searched it on Google, and found a blog they themselves wrote. Thanks, self!
Also, keep in mind that new people are always coming into tech, and they have questions. Lots of questions. Writing a blog on something that seems simple to you may be information gold to someone just getting started.
When you inevitably run up against the boundary of your knowledge, don’t stop. Do research. Talk to colleagues or peers. Watch a video. Read a book. Take a class.
The act of writing helps reinforce what you know, and provides a map to areas where you can expand your knowledge. Don’t wait until you become an expert to start blogging. Start blogging to become an expert.
2. I’ll Get Things Wrong
Probably you will. Technology is complicated and it’s easy to make mistakes. Being wrong comes with the territory.
If you’re lucky*, someone will point out your error. Hopefully they won’t be a jerk about it, but whether they are or not doesn’t matter. It still stings. You’ll feel embarrassed. You might say some bad words.
What do you do next?
Fix it. No need to make a fuss or pile on the mea culpas. Just acknowledge the error, make the change, and move on. That’s how learning works.
*I say “lucky” for a few reasons. 1. It means someone read your blog! 2. It means someone was willing to take the time to contact you. 3. Your blog no longer has a mistake.
3. No One Will Read It
Building an audience is hard. It takes time and persistent effort. Don’t tie your sense of self-worth to your traffic numbers, particularly in the early days.
But there are ways to attract readers. Get on social media. I recommend Twitter. There’s a lively community of technologists across IT disciplines on Twitter, and they tend to be supportive. LinkedIn is also a worthwhile place to share your work.
Don’t just use social media to promote your own posts. Share other people’s work. Leave comments. Engage in conversations. Have a sense of humor. Don’t be a jerk.
If you’re writing about a technology that has an active community, such as an open source project, use hashtags or “@“ them to let them know. The same goes if you’re writing about a commercial product. Vendors have marketing and PR people scouring social feeds for coverage, so if you tag or “@“ them, they’ll check it out. If they like your post, they might share it.
Just don’t be a shill. Shilling might win some vendor love, but you’ll probably alienate your core audience.
4. I Don’t Have Time
This is a tough one. If you want to blog, something else in your life has to give way. Family and work tend to get top priority, which means you’ll have to swap out something else, be it leisure, hobbies, fitness, sleep, TV, and so on.
Honestly, I don’t have a lot of advice here, other than to say that if writing is important to you, you have to make the time. It doesn’t have to be a lot: a few hours a week can be enough to get posts out the door on a semi-regular schedule.
5. The Internet Can Be Hostile
When you write publicly, you open yourself up not just to good faith criticism, but also to hostility, racism, sexism, intolerance, and harassment.
Frankly, this is less of an issue for white men. It’s a significant issue for women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. If you belong to a group at risk for harassment, I hope it won’t stop you, but you have to evaluate what’s best for you.
Those of us who enjoy a protected status must call out perpetrators and be advocates for at-risk groups. We can’t let bullies, bigots, and trolls thwart people from participating in the tech community.
Resources To Get Started
If you want to make the leap, here’s a few easy ways to start.
Blogger: This is a free blogging platform from Google and gives you your own domain name. Note that Google will toss your content into its algorithmic ad-serving maw in exchange for the service.
WordPress: WordPress blog hosting starts at $5 a month and goes up from there. It’s a popular and widely used platform, and if you’ve got big ambitions or a strong design aesthetic, WordPress has enough templates and plug-ins to make it worth your money.
GitHub: Better known as a code repository, you can also post blogs on GitHub for free. It’s a no-frills blogging platform, but what do you want for free?
Packet Pushers: I know this is self-serving, but Packet Pushers hosts a free community blog. We can set you up as an author, and you’re off to the races. You don’t get your own domain, but it’s a low-risk way to try your hand. If you’re interested, you can contact me at drew at packetpushers.net.