Why you should blog in 2021
My recent spurt of posts has reminded me just why blogging is still valuable.
Sure, podcasts are the rage. And Twitter has threads so you can basically blog there. And newsletters, I mean they are way more fetch than a blog, right?
Actually, before we go on I need to get something off my hairy chest. I had to google what the youngsters say now instead of "hip". I wanted to say "hip". But as soon as I typed it, I felt old.
Because I knew that people don't say hip anymore unless they are referring to their actual hip (you know, on their body).
I guess now they say "fetch" or at least that is what a quick google turned up.
Ok, now that we are past my inadequacies in the linguistics department, let's get back on topic. Blogging.
So anyway, I still think blogging is life changing. And I'm here today to convince you of the same.
Mental Storage and Organization
This has long been apparent to me. Blogging is a fantastic way to store and organize thoughts.
The more I've written about various programming things (my preferred topic) over the years, the more those things have become cemented (stored) in my head.
Also, blogging has made those things easier to find again when I need them.
Let me explain. I'll start with storage.
We've all done it. Hmmm, I need to do X. I've done X before on that one project. But what project was it? Was it project A? Or project B? Wait no, I think it was project Z. Nope. Dang, what project did I do that on???
Or, I know I did X on project A. But I can't for the life of me remember what I named things to find how I did it. And this project is huge.
Several searches later, I'm annoyed because this would be a simple copy/paste if I could just remember what to search for.
Maybe its just me. But I do this weekly, or at least bi-weekly.
Blogging helps with this because as you do X, you write about it. Then, later on when you are googling how to do X again (or trying to remember) you can go to one place (your blog) instead of several different projects/folders on your laptop.
I've done this many times with this here site you are reading and in the past with RailsTips. I haven't written a post on RailsTips in 5 years. But a few times a year I find myself re-reading a post I wrote to steal a technique I used.
You'd think that after programming a big batch of code that things would be really well organized in your head. But they aren't. I mean don't get me wrong, you believe they are. But they aren't.
Maybe it doesn't work this way for everyone, but it does for me. Hear me out.
My first pass on a post is usually just puking onto the page. Sorry for the visual. But 🤮 best represents it. It isn't polished. It isn't valuable. It isn't even coherent.
Once I've written a large section of gibberish, I edit. This is where the post starts to get structured and receives some flair.
Often I open up two browser windows. One has the ghost editor. The other has the post preview. Save (in editor). Refresh (in preview). Save. Refresh. Over and over.
Why? I want to spend the extra time to make the post as easy to consume as possible for the reader. I add headings. If a section is too long between those headings I break it up with sub-headings.
Every few paragraphs I bold important phrases or add emoji or images to keep pulling the reader's eye down the page. I'm doing it in this post. See, I just did it.
Anyway, the point is all of this organization of thoughts into words and structure on the page doesn't just make it easier to read.
Even if no one cares about what I'm writing, organizing things on the page also organizes them in my head. And that is valuable.
The value of blogging doesn't stop at mental organization though. Readers respond.
Feedback is Great
The key here is not just any feedback – but, more importantly, feedback on other or better ways to do what you wrote about.
Immediately after posting on rails authorization, Vladimir tagged me in a tweet about their project with similar goals and capabilities.
After a short tweetfest with Vladimir, I knew how to do most of what I was doing on my own with their open source code. Next time I reach for authorization on a project, I'll likely try action policy first. If it works out, that will save me time.
Maybe I would have eventually stumbled on action policy on my own. But the project is 3 years old and I hadn't come across it yet. I blogged and now I know about it. Thanks Vladimir! Oh, and thanks blogging!
Need another example?
Same goes for my post on webhooks. I included a code snippet that attempted to avoid allowing webhooks to localhost. Seems like a security risk, right?
Ben Curtis saw it and kindly shared what he uses for hookrelay.dev. His feedback took my weak and incomplete start to the next level – including checks of other private IP ranges. Flipper Cloud is more secure because of it. Thanks Ben!
I provided value to Ben by writing up my implementation. And he provided value to me by improving it. We both win! 💪
Those are just a couple of examples of feedback. But if you were to look back through my posts over time and the great feedback I've received, you'd likely sign up for ghost today and start writing.
Everyone is in Sales
I've read a lot of books in the past year on sales, marketing, and copywriting. Like a lot. The trending theme in these books is that everyone is in sales. You just don't realize it.
Have a friend? You are selling that the time they spend with you is worth it.
Have a product? You are selling that product to customers.
Work for a company? You are selling your time to them.
And sales is about serving, not about selling.
As Dan Pink says in "To Sell is Human":
Anytime you’re tempted to upsell someone else, stop what you’re doing and upserve instead.
Don’t try to increase what they can do for you.
Elevate what you can do for them.
Would my company have been GitHub's first acquisition if I didn't take over RailsTips in 2006 and proceed to write nearly 200 posts in 4 years?
We'll never know. But what I do know is blogging helped – a lot!
A Huge Store of Value
You read that right. I averaged a post a week for 4 years. I didn't even know that until just now when I went and counted them.
Sure, all that blogging really organized a lot of things in my head and provided me with a lot of feedback so I could learn and grow.
But unknowingly I was building up this huge store of value. Every post was selling me to potential friends, customers, employers and even acquirers.
Eventually, I was able to cash in on that value figuratively when we were acquired by GitHub – and literally when GitHub was acquired by Microsoft.
Come to think of it, I can't name a single person who has committed to creating value for others weekly for several years with little or no success. Not a one. All of the names that come to mind are doing really well.
Dang. This wasn't my plan for this post. I had several other points. But I sat down and started typing and that is what came out. And now that I'm at the end, I'm kind of sitting here at my desk a bit shocked.
I didn't really connect the dots as to what has went well in my professional life until just now. If you consistently put value out there in the world, it comes back to you. So simple it doesn't seem worth saying. But its true and easy to forget.
You reap what you sow. Go plant some blog posts.
But don't give up. Nothing worthwhile comes easy. Put a few years in and then come back here and let me know how you're doing.