Sep 24, 2016
I decided to redo my website recently. It was nice to revisit a development process with a bunch of new knowledge and insight, and see how differently I approached it. It also gave me the chance to take a long hard look at the under-used moleskine journal that is my blog. That got me thinking about what sort of posts worked well, or didn’t, and why. So I decided to reflect a bit on that and try to get a better footing blogging forward.
First let me point out a few reasons for writing a blog. These ones are ordered by how relevant they are to my experience.
- You're learning about how to make a website that has a blog.
- You are learning/have learned about a thing, and would like to crystallize the knowledge of that thing. Explaining it in words is a good way to do that.
- You have a thought or opinion on something that doesn't necessarily correspond to learning, but you don't want to forget about it. By investigating and analyzing it, and then writing about your findings, you can flesh out your idea, add reasoning to your opinion, and avoid letting those precious brain gems of yours fall into the void of lost memory.
- Intelligent people that you respect recommend that you write a blog, listing a variant of the reasons above, and/or some reasons of their own.
How To Blog Well?
What works well in a blog or not depends very much on the type of blog it is. In my case, I’m writing a small, low-effort blog on my personal website. At the moment I’m not expecting very many people to come across and read it, but I’m also aware that the possibility exists. In writing a blog, my biggest challenge is just getting the writing done and published itself. I have a tendency to be a perfectionist, spinning on drafts that never get finished. To overcome that, my main goal is to just simply write down more stuff that I am learning, or don’t want to forget.
Now, the word “well” is hard to define. Here are some pictures describing what I mean in this context:
Posts that worked well
Posts that did not work well
With all of that in mind, here’s a summary of my findings:
What did work well
- Having posts, rather than not having any posts
- Posts with a clearly defined topic
- Posts with pictures
What did not work well
- Posts that were too personal for my comfort level
- Posts that didn't focus on a topic
- Posts that were too short and didn't contain much concrete information
The best general advice I glean from this is to have a clearly defined topic before you start writing a post. A blog post doesn’t always need to be an essay, but should contain at least one or two useful bits of knowledge or insight. A blog with posts is usually better than a blog with no posts, so try not to be discouraged from writing. You always learn more from your output (even if it’s not your best work), than you do from the nonexistent.