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On Blogging

2018-06-14

Is writing a blog worth it? I guess I’ve decided to some extent that it is. The cost of hosting a blog is pretty low (1-2 dollars a month for this one on AWS) and while chances are that this will become another unvisited destination on the interent, there are still reasons to do it.

Besides improving my writing by blogging, blogging can provide other benefits (like learning how to use emacs as I write an entry). It can also potentially be hazardous – it’s certainly not anonymous and if I write something my employeer finds and doesn’t agree with, it can potentially have consequences. Despite the potential drawbacks I believe the potential benefits outweigh them by quite a bit.

Maybe you’ve stumbled on this entry thinking about writing your own blog. You’ve heard that it will help your career or provide untold riches. I can’t say whether it will or it won’t. I do know that an article I wrote on Code Project did help me get a job indirectly. So it’s certainly possible that if you write something well and it’s helpful to others, it can pay dividends in some way. I also got a Code Project coffee mug from it, so there’s that.

I’ve read countless blogs and articles where people have talked about having improved their careers and finances by blogging. They also tend to say that it takes time and effort and consistency. Many of them (sorry no links) say it takes years before finding success doing this. I don’t really expect to blog to find financial success, although it’s certainly nice to think that it could provide a little income.

Most of those people who have “successful” blogs also said they wrote for years before finding any audience or success (hello internet and the 4-5 random readers a weak). I’m sure it also takes a little bit of luck and planning. Part of it is having a niche to write about. Unless somehow I become an entertaining and insightful blog about trendy topics (which I don’t plan on), that means a little bit of focus on what I write about.

I don’t think that I’m focused enough to attract a readership about a given topic (yet). Given the fact that my personal programming projects are about to revolve around Scheme, Standard ML, and writing interpreters for the next year or so, my blog entries will probably be about those topics. I don’t think this topic is going to draw as big a following as blogging about the latest JavaScript library on npm, or writing about ASP.NET, or some other framework that people use at work, but it’s what I’m interested in now.

So if you have stumbled on this blog then I certainly have some pity for you and chances are at this point you’ll simply increase my bounce rate on Google Analytics.

If however you’re interested in learning a little bit about Scheme/Lisp and Standard ML while I stumble my way through them, you might be in the right spot. As of now I know that Scheme has a lot of parenthesis and I can’t use Visual Studio with it. As for Standard ML I know basically even less, except that it’s been around for a while and probably won’t help me at work.

I am looking forward to learning these languages though. I use C# primarily and while it makes some functional programming possible, it is primarily an imperative object oriented language. So it will be nice to practice in a different paradigm.

While this is a blog entry on blogging (sorry no tips today) I think it would be prudent to say a little bit about what I hope this blog may eventually become and what I want to get out of it.

The first goal is for this blog to be well written. I want to be a good writer and this is my primary tool for improving. I’ve read a lot of technical writing and programming books and writing clearly and effectively about technology can be hard to do. Tailoring the writing to a specific skill level and knowing my audience will be critically important. If I want this to be a useful blog that generates traffic, eventually I’ll have to have a target audience and I’ll have to write well.

The second goal for this blog is for it to be good. That sounds like a pretty abstract goal and it is. The last thing that I want this blog to be is a catalog of ideas and paths I started down and never finished. I get distracted easily by new and shiny things, and it would be all too easy to write a weekly commentary about what happened on Twitter or in the technology world. It’s easy to get caught up in this stuff and take off in a lot of different directions. I’d like for the entries to have value beyond a day or two. I don’t want it to be a spot for commentary on the latest drama in the world or technology industry. There are plenty of avenues for this already.

Goal number three will be for this blog to have a unique voice. While I improve my writing I’ll have to develop a voice for communicating using this medium. I don’t want it to read like a textbook or a series of press releases for technology that I’m interested in or like. I’d like for it to be readable and not just put people to sleep.

The fourth goal is for the blog to be useful. Each entry should provide value to the reader. In theory this could be a lot of different things. It could be an entertaining entry, or a book review, or a description of how to do something in C#. While the motiviations for having a blog can be selfish, for it to be useful it needs to give some valeu to its readers. Ideally this will be a blog that people bookmark or subscribe to the RSS feed. Eventually it would be nice to have some readers and if the blog isn’t useful it won’t.

As fifth goal, I would like for this blog to be somewhat fun to do. The technology of Hugo and AWS behind it, with a little scripting, have made it trivial to manage. I’d like for the writing part to be interesting and fun so that it doesn’t just become a painful task. So far I do find that I like writing the entries, and if some people start to find it on the web, I think I’ll be more motivated to continue.

Finally, as a sixth goal, I’d like this blog to provide some return value. Besides just improving my writing, eventually I’d like to have some readers on this site. This in turn can provide a base for future projects such as a book where I would be able to make a little money. I’m not sure what to write a book on yet, but I’m leaning towards a starting programming book with F#. I don’t know F# yet and have some other projects to work on before this, but it sounds like a fun topic.