Why Developers — Including You — Need to Create Content
“Publish or perish” shouldn’t be a motto for academics only.
Maybe you have written some articles online yourself. Maybe you haven’t.
In this article, I’m going to outline all the benefits that come from creating content and sharing it online.
Why? Because producing quality content isn’t easy — its a mental and emotional journey every single time. At least until you do it for consistently for months in an optimized, proven and repeatable format.
When you find yourself unmotivated, staring at five unfinished drafts you cannot muster up the courage to complete, use this list to remind of the pleasure waiting on the other side.
1. It’s the best way to learn yourself
“You do not understand something until you could explain it to your Grandma.” is a popular quote that also rings true.
It’s common to feel like you understand something until going through the process of pulling the ideas out of your mind and onto paper.
Once you begin the creative process (be it writing, podcasting, or something else) and realize how many aspects of the topic you’ve yet to consider, you have two choices:
- Get frustrated and give up
- Do research until you are able to form a coherent thesis!
If you choose option #2 and follow through, there’s no question you’ll gain a deeper, more organized understanding of what you’re writing about.
As Nat Eliason states in his article “Improving Idea Flow”:
If you’re not in the habit of creating things from your ideas, your ideas are never forced into some kind of coherency.
And it’s the process of flexing this creative muscle repeatedly that humbles you, and over time, leads to producing good content with consistency.
2. You Become Forced to Read Related Articles
It takes a special type of selfishness to write an article and do zero research on what’s already been said on the topic.
Assuming you aren’t this type of person, you will likely discover that many relevant and intelligent things have already been written. This is great, go learn from them!
Great developers don’t exist in a bubble and forcing you into this habit of consuming content will invariable lead to stumbling onto ideas that can help you in your own work or be a reliable thought leader to others.
Now, while we’re here let me quickly describe an altogether too common situation:
Programmer Pete has a brilliant thought and in a burst of inspiration creates a Medium account. He spends two weeks writing and perfecting his 800 word article. He wrestles with every word, reading it over and over and finally — releases his masterpiece into the world. He sits back, waiting for the flood of positive responses, new followers, interview requests and paid speaking engagements.
1 minute.. 2 minutes.. an hour goes by, and nothing! Not a soul cares.
Is this a tragedy? Maybe. But Pete has never liked, clapped, or retweeted someone else’s story before, why should he be so upset at the lack of attention paid to his story now?
I am not recommending disingenuously giving praise to others for their work, but there’s no reason to be stingy in giving out a little bit of love either. It’s too common a mindset to view it as a zero-sum game and like an overripe peach, develop a bruised ego over an under-appreciated piece.
Money begets more money, laughter begets laughter, and responding to other’s content will beget more responses to your own.
As a general rule of thumb, you should give praise to 10 articles for every 1 piece of content you produce. Then and only then, I give you permission to be salty when your magnum opus goes overlooked.
3. It Opens Unforeseeable Professional Doors
The third and final reason is directed toward developers who work on engineering teams at companies, large or small.
It’s a naive mindset — but many programmers start out with the vision that once they pick up and master programming skills, they would be leaned on to solve all the toughest problems thrown a company’s way.
The reality is often less glamorous, and in fact in my experience, devs have to constantly prove themselves as more than code-monkeys, capable of also thinking through product or business or marketing challenges.
Sad but true: people are quicker to find faults in their coworkers than strengths. This is true bi-directionally of developers and members of the teams they interact with.
Turns out, creating and sharing popular content online is a great way to change that perception — from tourist programmer blindly following a Jira ticket to collect the next paycheck, to instead competent developer they are lucky to work with.
Sometimes we are our own toughest critic, and getting validation from the larger community will also help build the necessary confidence to speak up in the next meeting or throw your idea out there for feedback. This type of “risk taking” is how you grow.
Finally, as you progress in your career and move from engineer to senior engineer to perhaps a team-lead, having the social proof of a popular blog is a convincing datapoint that you are legit and will do a good job leading and inspiring the other engineers on the team. It can be hard to judge from bullet points on a resume or god-forbid a github repo with two commits updated 6 months ago.
Engaging with others online might just lead to connecting with the person who give the offer for your next role!
To recap: creating content will help you 1. clarify your own thoughts 2. get in the habit of learning from others and 3. help open doors both in your current role and in potential future ones.
So what are you waiting for? Get writing!