I’m a student at Launch School, learning to code web applications. Recently a fellow student asked me how to get started with blogging about programming. While I’ve only written one technical blog post, I’ve almost written many, so I thought I would share the advice that helped me finally push publish. I also wrote a personal blog for a couple years, so I have some blogging experience even though writing about code is new to me.
Tip #1: Be Honest
Be transparent about your experience. If you’re a student, say so. If you just learned the concept you’re writing about yesterday, make that clear. Readers are very forgiving if you’re honest about the fact that you’re still learning. What upsets readers is if the writer claims to be an expert at something they are not (yet!).
Tip #2: Don’t Worry About Going Viral
This may surprise you, but this is a real concern I and others have had when publishing to the internet for the first time. It’s been shown that almost everyone thinks they are above average, and likewise many of us feel that the moment we share our amazing wisdom with the world millions of readers on the interwebs will flock to it.
The reality is, that unless you are Chewbacca Mom, almost no one will see your first attempts at publicity on the internet. It normally takes years of writing to build a large following, so don’t fret that you might hit the front page of reddit with your post on floating point numbers in Ruby and that thousands of angry commenters are going to descend upon you.
Tip #3: Find Inspiration By Talking With Other Students
Both my first post and this one were inspired by conversations I had with other students. When you’re describing something you’re learning to another student, you naturally have to explain it in a step by step way. Take that conversation and summarize it as a post. You also may realize that the question another student has was one you also had. This means it’s likely that many students had the same question and would like to read about it!
Tip #4: Notice when you’re stuck on a problem and how you got unstuck
Keep track of when you don’t understand something. Describe what you didn’t understand and why you were stuck. Then explain the process you took to become unstuck. Learning that process is valuable for other students. Show the process you took, whether it was looking up documentation, experimenting with code, or asking the right question. Students want to know, how do you solve a coding problem you’re stuck on?
Tip #5: In the beginning, your blog posts are mostly for yourself
Given that not many people are going to read your first posts, and that you aren’t an expert on these topics yet, your first posts are mostly about solidifying your own understanding. By writing about what you’re learning, you are helping yourself remember the concepts you are studying. And by explaining a concept, you often get a better understanding of it.
Tip #6: Have someone hold you accountable
This is the approach I took with my first post. Tell another student that you are going to write a post and what it will be about. If you’re like me you also tell them you start many posts but don’t finish them. Tell them to hold you accountable that you’ll publish this time. Then, when you feel like giving up, there will be someone that won’t let you get away with it, which is often fun for them as well.
I hope these tips are helpful for you. I’ll take my own advice and say that I’m new to writing about code and could be wrong about all of this, so if you disagree, please let me know!