The Making of a Great (Developer) Blog

If you’re subscribed to this blog (or follow on Twitter) then you may have noticed a small yet significant uptick on the posting here, moving from at least one blog post a week to two.

And, as many of you know, writing can take up a lot of time, even when the quality and output is somewhat mediocre and balancing the consistent practice and discipline of writing for a business blog with the work of business-building is really difficult.

And that’s not to taken lightly. Most business blogs, especially in the early stages, are completely bare if not altogether absent from the scene.

Now, this isn’t an indictment or a judgment as I fully understand the difficulty of getting content written and put together when there are a thousand other things that are needed to get done when putting together a new project but I also know that an investment in blogging provides opportunities for serious gains short and long-term.

I know this because I’ve made a habit of writing every single day for the last 15 years on my personal blog and seen the incredible results of building an audience and directing their attention to the projects I’m working on. These projects spanned the spectrum for the super-indie (i.e. one-man project / team) to the VC-backed hyper-growth startup.

The TL;DR of all of this is that I’ve been able to create a clear strategy to put dollars in our pockets as we’ve built out content and a growing community through consistently hitting the “Publish” button.

(And I apologize for those that have been reading my stuff for a while as I can’t seem to stop banging on this drum like a madman! It’s like people don’t listen the first time…)

I get it, it's hard to write consistently. Lots of blank pages. You can do it though.
I get it, it’s hard to write consistently. Lots of blank pages. You can do it though.

But I think this is especially important for software developers and engineers as they’ve developed significant immunity to traditional marketing and anything that feels remotely like spammy marketing tactics.

This is mostly based out of sheer survival as our value as engineers and builders is heads-down time in our favorite IDE crushing code, squashing bugs, and responding to real customer needs through feedback loops with product owners so that the team can deploy products that people desperately want and need.

To do that we need to reduce distraction, all the things, and we go the distance when it comes to implementing solutions to do that (e.g. ad blockers in browsers, going totally offline, etc.). This is because most of the stuff online is absolute junk and simply not relevant to the software developer and her real needs.

So the best developer-centric blogs divorce themselves from those things and publish content, stories, and present information that the developer wants to read. But what does that mean for you (and I) as the new software blog? How do you know what to write about and how often and to what extent?

Give your readers a view inside.
Give your readers a view inside.

I think the answer is as fluid as the options available to a developer building a new product. You see, the best developer blogs out there are the ones that do at least the following two things:

  1. They are consistent. They start writing, they build a cadence, and they don’t quit. Predictability and consistency are hallmarks of great products (and the code that powers them) and that resonates.
  2. They create obvious and tangible value. The blog isn’t necessarily a place to market or to copy-and-paste press releases. They exist to help the reader learn something new about their technological world and to helps them be more successful in whatever they are doing. The blog, in a sense, isn’t about you or your company – it’s about the developer community that comes to read it every time a new post is published.

Now, you may see a lack of what is most commonly voiced as necessary for a “good” blog, things like “authenticity” and “transparency” and all of that fluff. I believe those things are good, in essence, but it’s just too hard to qualify what that means since it ends up being manifested differently per blog and per company, so I don’t even try.

This means that building a successful developer-centric blog is one of experimentation and isn’t a one-size-fits-all. I’ve seen incredible developer blogs where the CTO publishes a long-form post once a month and I’ve seen others where the developers take turns writing short and fun quips about their most recent PR. I’ve seen others that are deeply personal and others that are 100% technical and almost leave the writer in the distant background (sometimes completely unidentifiable).

It’s simply up to you as to how you and your team should engage. Feel free to experiment, especially in the beginning, and get feedback from your early readers as they’ll let you know what they think. Just make sure you’re open to the feedback loop and that you execute in the most authentic way that you and your team know how to do.

If you want a few more additional thoughts I’ve written them out here:

Clearly, I’ve thought about it a lot and it’s all motivated out of a clear desire to see my projects and work succeed, in the best way possible. Obviously you share these motives as well and so I’d love to help – feel free to ping me and we can chat about your strategy for putting together your corporate blog.

Finally, I’d love to hear from you – what would you like to see more of with this project blog? What’s working and what’s not? Why did you subscribe or follow this blog in the first place? Give me your thoughts – I’m listening.

 


Also published on Medium.

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