So You Want to Start a Technical Blog
Blogs are an easy way to share expertise and knowledge: as long as you're willing to write (or otherwise create content), you can publish a blog post in a matter of seconds. There are plenty of bloggers who have taken the basic form — a series of content posts usually shown in reverse chronological order — and turned their blogs into full-time businesses, books, promotions for their other projects, or great job offers.
Technical blogging is almost identical to other types of blogging, with the key limitation of focusing primarily on technology topics. For someone working in a technical field, building a great blog can be easier than in broader topics. There's less competition, for people who write about individual programming languages than about their favorite foods. As a result, devoting yourself to building a great tech blog can pay off. At the most basic level, writing blog posts about technical topics can prove your expertise to (potential) employers and others who can reward you for that expertise.
Consider how useful a tool GitHub has become for recruiters: seeing code samples from programmers before trying to recruit them for jobs has made life a lot easier for technical recruiters. Many programmers looking for work find GitHub to be a valuable tool. Technical blogs offer an added level of visibility for programmers, as well as for other technology experts. In addition to giving you an opportunity to showcase your knowledge, a blog lets you prove your ability to communicate effectively — a skill in demand at practically all employers.
Technical blogs can also help you get the following:
- Speaking opportunities
- Opportunities to blog on bigger websites (sometimes for pay)
- A higher profile with a current employer (which can help with getting a raise or a promotion)
- Attention for your own projects, whether open source, for profit, or otherwise
As an added bonus, many bloggers find writing out new information to be a great way to reinforce what they're learning. Sharing what you're currently learning can let you get a little more experience with a topic, while making that information more widely available.
The Downsides of a Technical Blog
Before you fully embrace blogging, it's important to note that there are some negatives to contrast the positive benefits. Blogging is a lot of work, made even harder by having to put your posts out where the public can see them. Knowing that someone else will see your work may make you reluctant to publish until each post is perfect, which is an easy way to never publish at all. Worse is the fear of what can happen once your work is public. Getting a positive comment on something you've written feels good, but bloggers can feel crushed by a negative response — and every blogger gets negative comments at some point. Even if you think that no one will ever see your blog, you'll get at least a little traffic from search engines even if you don't do any promotions.
Furthermore, certain people can get more than their fair share of abuse when blogging. Bloggers who identify as female and who write about technical topics can face particularly painful attacks. One of the earliest bloggers (female or otherwise), Kathy Sierra, was driven offline by death threats over ten years ago. The situation hasn't exactly improved since then.
I can't recommend that you blog in good conscience without mentioning these downsides. However, bloggers with smaller followings don't usually receive a large share of negative attention. More importantly, letting fear of this sort of response stop you from even starting is, essentially, letting those negative commenters win. If the biggest obstacle you face is this sort of fear, I encourage you to find a way to blog in spite of it.
The best way to reduce your fears may be to build a support group: friends who also blog, whom you can ask for help. That help might be reading over a post before you make it public. That help can also be going into your blog and deleting comments so you don't have to read them. Just having friends who understand what you're doing, however, can be the greatest benefit you get out of a blogging support group.