Firstly, I need to thank Tobias Van Schneider for what is really the main Inspiration for this post: https://www.vanschneider.com/a-love-letter-to-personal-websites
In writing this, I had almost forgot that ‘blog’ is a truncation of ‘weblog’! Does anyone still refer to sites like this as a “weblog”? Maybe it’s time to bring the term back into fashion? I’m procrastinating. Onto today’s topic.
This blog has taken a fair amound of time to put together, not because it’s complicated or difficult, but because I somehow have found many websites to build in the last few weeks. Right now I’m sitting in front of an open fire in a ski lodge in the Perisher Valley, enjoying the unsual amount of snowfall in mid October. So I certainly have time to write up the following ideas.
I thought I’d have a look to see what the fuss has been about using Google Trends:
(A fresher graph is available here).
A little bit of my history with the web
Read about the history of my corner of the web where I embarrassingly share rather terrible websites I’ve had over the years! Turns out I’ve tried this blog thing many times.
So getting back to the actual topic of this blog. Why do I blog?
It’s your own corner of the web
You have less restrictions. I wouldn’t say no restrictions, of course, as that’s impossible. But having your own site means you have less corporations messing with your content. You don’t need to play by the rules of giant social networks. As a result, you get less visitors (well, probably). But it’s yours to own. And this is very important to me. It’s like being able to publish your own book without someone getting the red pen out and changing all of your best work.
I’m definitely not someone who fears the algorithm or the filter bubble, but I do like having that higher level of control, even if it’s my own code that renders the site.
It’s great writing practice
I actually enjoy writing very much. I don’t think I’m brilliant at it, but It’s enjoyable enough and I think that the more you write, the better you get at it. Probably like most things in life…
I’ve considered writing a novel. Perhaps not too seriously, but I’ve certainly toyed with the idea. This is an amusing idea for me, since I’m not really a reader of novels (I prefer biographies and non-fiction). Perhaps this site is my auto-biographical fix?
Writing practice comes in handy, especially for aspects of your professional career when it comes to writing great documentation or the occasional pointed email. So it’s definitely a skill that you could lean on in the future.
I’m definitely no expert in this area, so I dabble.
It’s a diary to look back upon
Sometimes I look back and read old posts. Going back sometimes feels embarassing, but pushing past the embarassment factor means you can use your blog as a time capsule. It’s a great way to showcase what you were thinking at the time, although maybe not every thought is recorded…
Sometimes I read about some old project that I was working on at the time and chuckle as I remember the good times and the frustrating times.
It can showcase your talent (if you care about that)
I’ve got a fair amount of emails/comments/requests asking for more information on my serverless CMS - especially about open sourcing it (I think this will happen one day after I remove the commercially-purchased theme, so watch this space). But I’ve written about other topics based on what I was interested in at the time and I think for some people, an active blog is a great tool for attracting recruiters looking to acquire new talent.
The only tip here is to make sure you keep on top of it, if a showcase is important to you. Having a blog which is outdated and badly kept (or has glaring technical issues) would probably hinder you more than boost if you are going for a technical role and your blog is something you’d like to lean on.
It’s fun (at least it is to me, anyway)
Sometimes you get amazing traffic bumps when you really hit on a great topic and it gets shared on Reddit or Hacker News. That’s a great moment. Even if you don’t get stacks of eyeballs, so what. It’s still fun to know you have your own space with your own thoughts. I haven’t tried doing a “Show HN” yet and post my own content, but maybe one day I’ll get enough courage to try that.
My most read blog about being an engineering manager got about 40k reads, which I know is nothing compared to big traffic sites but it’s a good number for me. It’s certainly higher than the readership of some of my more obscure posts!
I can dogfood my CMS
If you’ve never heard of the term, dogfooding is where a company uses their own product before releasing it to customers. “Eating your own dog food”, if you will.
I like to do exactly that and I’m using my CMS to author and publish this blog. It’s handy because then I know if it’s easy or different to write, upload images and publish. Of course, having written the CMS myself it does mean I’m probably far too involved to be a great judge of my CMS product, but at least using the product at all is a good start!
Most of all…
… it keeps the free and open web going. Sharing your latest random obscure project like Building a ‘Homebrew’ Video Game Console, Compact Disc Structure or many others. For this reason alone, it doesn’t matter if your HTML skills are pretty bad, the fact that you get something out there, published, for anyone to read. That’s enough.
As I write this, in the evening, sitting in a cozy lodge in one of Australia’s few ski villages, I was asked what article I was writing. The response from one person staying in the lodge probably thought I was a bit weird for writing articles about myself or projects and things I’ve worked on. But I’m not deterred.
Sometimes the critics roll in and comment and pick apart your latest creation and this can often feel damaging, but you do have to remember that keyboard warriors are often only there to pick fights. Fearing a reaction to your creation can scare you away from posting at all, but you just need to push through and get some confidence in your writing. Sometimes I don’t look at the comments at all, because like most people, I don’t like rejection either!
What if nobody is reading?
As long as your aim wasn’t to get loads of eyeballs, then there is nothing to worry about. The main reason for anyone to have a read is really about good content. It’s always a winner. So if you’re writing on point, the eyes will come in spades. Of course you could always dip into social networks to get that boost and even places like LinkedIn have a surprisingly high number of members who are keen to read your articles. Try it.
Sometimes I find it hard to be inspired to write the next blog. At the moment I have a few undeveloped ideas sitting in draft, just in case I have a moment when I can spend time to properly finish them off. The ideas are pretty disparate: from experimenting with vegemite, to growing yacón, to movie reviews and even talking about the worst national internet implementation of all time. So it’s not always about tech, and I think it’s good to branch out every now and then. I think that’s the beauty of being in control of what you want to post. The most entertaining articles have actually been about retro games - so what if that doesn’t relate to my career!
So we’ll see what happens and which idea I pick up next. I should probably cover a few more tech things first, just to keep the blend right.
These days, there are many great places to start a blog for free, including Medium, Wordpress and Blogger. Although I do like hosting my own, not everyone can be expected to do that from the beginning! I hear Medium has plenty of exposure, if that’s what you’re after. But I’m quite happy here, at nickmchardy.com.