I remember a while back I was headhunted by a (tech) company and the initial discussions went rather well so I decided to accept their invitation to go to their office for a more in-depth
interview discussion. While meeting one of their team members the discussion came up about how do I keep myself up to do date with technology. I told him that I spend time regularly checking sources like Twitter, LinkedIn, buzzfeed and so on, I attend meetups and also I have mentioned, I blog.
“You blog?” he asked and his face showed a clearly not pleasant surprise.
I told him that yes I do, and to clarify the confusion I explained that while my blog (this one) sees updates at time to do with my personal life, I blog also a lot about technical matters.
“Why?” he asked again visibly irritated.
I explained that I think blogging helps with actually structuring your findings around a certain technical subject and as such it helps you clarify and understand your findings better and put structure around your learning.
“I don’t get it — he said to me — if you say start playing with a new technology like you mentioned, let’s say some REST Java library, then once you figured it out you then write a post in your blog about it?”
“Yes”, I answered.
“What’s the point of that — he went on — you are not writing anything new, after all you just said you will spend time reading technical content that’s already out there and then you just go and write similar content. I don’t get why do you do it?”
I was sort of stunned at this point by his reaction and his view upon the matter and I have decided to drop the subject and shortly moved the discussion to something else. As it happens the other discussions I had at the time didn’t really impress me that much to the point where we decided to wish each other good luck and I didn’t take the offer the company was trying to put together for me.
Recently though I have come across this article about why starting a blog and I remembered this discussion. I think Dave (the author of the article) is touching on some interesting points there and I decided to add my own 2 cents to this too — I’m not sure if the person I spoke with at the time will be reading this, but hopefully will help other peeps with similar views get some more insight into the whole “what’s the point in having this blog“.
First of all as I mentioned before, writing a blog posts forces me put structure around what I’ve learned — and structuring this helps me store what I’ve learned in my memory better. This is for 2 reasons:
- Just by writing again pieces of code and information I’ve come across helps me store that information. (Think about the fact that certain things / patterns of coding / styles of coding / etc have become a second nature to you simply because you use them often. If you used for instance the
java.util.Mapinterface a lot, you will know by heart most of its method, right? Whereas initially when you started using it you had to rely on JavaDoc a lot.)
- Secondly, when you are writing a blog post, if you’re really serious about blogging, you cannot just copy and paste some piece of code and say “here, read this code, it’s awesome, you’ll see!“. Instead you have to put some language around it, explain parts of it, break it down so that the reader can understand the point of your blog post. This, again, helps YOU revisit the learning you have just been through.
Another reason I write some of the technical blog posts is because at the time, I actually couldn’t find the answer to my problem on the net! Like a lot of techies out there, when I encounter a technical issue I try first to see if there is anyone else in the entire
world internet who had the same problem and if so how did they fix it. (We do live in an era of instant gratification after all and if someone else has done the work for me then why not use their learning?) If I don’t find anything out there around the subject, I sit down and go through documentation — this could be the docco for a framework I’m working on, specifications regarding certain platforms, language fundamentals and so on. Sometimes, I find my answer in there, but after a lot of reading and digging — which can get tedious. So if I write a blog post having found my answer in there, then I’m surely saving the next guy some time, right? And it doesn’t stop here, because sometimes you don’t find your answer! So then you have to start writing code yourself, experimenting with “stuff”, trial-and-error and so on until having gotten under the covers of the problem you understand enough of what is going on to find the solution. And when I get to that point I will blog about it, because I am in fact not copying some content already out there, but creating something new, and writing about something that no one else has!
Another thing that your blog helps you with is find out more about the very subject you wrote about. If you have a “community” facility on your blog where readers can leave comment, more often than not you will receive other readers’ views on the matter and even links to similar content — which, again, expands your horizon on the matter.
Last but most definitely not least (to the point where maybe I should have started with this point first), maintaining a blog pushes you “out there” so to speak, tells the world about you. It’s one thing to put in your resume that you are deeply interested in — but if you also blog about what you are interested in, then there will be very little doubt left in their mind that indeed you are passionate about that subject, since after all, you are definitely dedicating time to this to blog about it at least. (And if the blog post contains snippets of code, to code around it too.) Also, if the content you produce on your blog is somewhat unique (see my points above about blogging about rare issues/gotchas you might find which are not that documented on the net) then you also position yourself into a somewhat expert in that matter.
You probably read this before, but your blog helps you create your brand. If you’re not too acquainted with marketing and/or advertising of any kind, this phrase might not mean too much to you, but think about 3 things that you want to be associated with. (In my case, this would be Java (or JVM), digital marketing and startups.) If you keep blogging about these 3 things, your blog becomes associated with these 3 and as such so do you — that’s in a few words building your brand. And then, isn’t it nice when you got to a meetup (or an interview for that matter!) and people know that you’re the guy who wrote about X, Y or Z?
And to do so all it takes is for you to start a blog — don’t listen to skeptics like the guy I mentioned at the beginning of this post, trust me, it’s worth it! After all, you are reading this now! 😉