What Makes a Good Developer Blog?

When I was writing one of my recent posts, I thought to myself – “what makes a good blog for a developer?” So out of curiosity, I began to do some quick research on the matter. Somewhat surprisingly, while there was a lot of advice for blogging in general and some for tech gadget-y blogs, there is not as much targeted specifically for developers. I don’t pretend to be a subject matter expert on the topic nor provide any original insights here, but for personal reference if nothing else, I have summarised the key takeaways from the sources I found to be most useful.

1. PluralSight – “Get Involved”
Full Course: pluralsight.com

This is a PluralSight course by Scott Hanselman and Rob Conery. Apart from blogging which is my focus here, the topics covered included Twitter, GitHub, StackOverflow and user groups. The content even included the rudimentary mechanics of setting up a blog for absolute beginners, and also broader career considerations for developers. Below are the nuggets I noted for myself as I was watching it.

Scott Hanselman
According to Scott, there are 2 types of blogs.
1.  A how-to, guide or documentation supplement … these should:
–  Be detailed and clear
–  Link one concept to the next
–  Solve a problem
2. An opinion or ‘op-ed’ … these should:
–  Contain concise explanations
–  Backup your opinions
–  Not rant
To ensure his words always add value and have purpose, as Scott writes he continually asks himself “SO WHAT?” That is, he repeatedly questions the relevancy of his writing.

Rob Conery
Rob describes his characteristics of good and bad blog posts.
1. Good:
–  Write what I care about
–  Do so truthfully
–  Infuse personality into writing, while showing skill with words
2. Bad:
–  Being overly dramatic or using cliches
–  Trying to sell or conform to something
–  Trying to manipulate or being over the top
=> ‘Dishonest writing’
Good feedback once given to Rob – “I can hear your voice so clearly – it’s like you’re talking to me.”

Jeff Atwood
Jeff’s thoughts on blogging are:
–  Tell a story
–  Should sound like something I would say.
–  “Is this the way I would say it?”
–  “Does it sound like writing, or does it sound like talking?”
=> Conversational in style

Rob Conery on Scott Hanselman’s style:
His live presentations mirrored his writing style, which contains deep technical detail, witty asides, interesting pictures … and he always learns something new.

Rob Conery on John Gruber’s style:
Minimalistic … sometime his posts contains contain quotes with very few words of his own but they always make a strong point.

Rob Conery on Jeff Atwood style:
Synthesises disparate sources into something new.

2. Simple Programmer – “How Taiseer Joudeh, Built an Incredibly Successful Technical Blog in 14 Months”
Full Article: simpleprogrammer.com

Thanks to my colleague @EmadAshi for pointing me to this article where John Somnez interviews Taiseer Joudeh. It is a quick read and very informative, with the key takeaways for me being:
–  Be passionate about your topic – if so the content will come and it won’t seem like ‘work’
–  Taiseer picked a niche area to specialise in
–  Use your own words and writing style – authenticity
–  Be consistent in how often you blog
–  Also has other good tips for promoting your blog – you can read these for yourself if you are interested! 🙂

Links