It’s March 15th and you know what that means….only a month left for the procrastinators to do their taxes in the US. Well, actually, that’s not what I’m really talking about here. Last year a whole host of people write up posts titled “Ideas of March” and this year’s no different. Several members of the PHP community are jumping in with there thoughts on blogging – here’s some of mine.
Blogging is great, don’t get me wrong…I love it when I can Google for something and find that someone, somewhere has done exactly what I need. This historical record of shared knowledge is one of the things that makes the web great. Of course, it can also sometimes do more harm than good. “But I thought you were going to write about how blogging is a good thing,” you ask. Well, I believe it inherently is, but with a few caveats:
Blogs are only as good as their authors:
Not everyone out there is a clear, excellent writer (I know I’m not) and, as a result, sometimes the message of a post can get lost in poor wording. What’s a solution to this? Blog more often! That’s right, it’s just like anything else – the more you do something, the better at it you get. You start getting into a certain frame of mind when you’re fingers to the keys and you learn little “mind tricks” (no Jedi here) on how to best get your message across. You don’t have to be an amazing writer to be a clear one.
Dates, Versions & Code:
This one’s a tough one, especially for us tech bloggers. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve found what I thought I needed in my Google results only to go over to a post and discover that I have no idea when it was written. The URL gives no clue and there’s not a date to be found. This drives me nuts and if your blog dosen’t have dates on the post, go change that. Right now. I’ll wait here.
Additionally, something that can make for a lot less frustration for people coming to your posts later are two things – somehow tagging or mentioning what version of a language the post relates to (“this post was written against PHP 5.2.5”) and trying to keep the code up to date. Yes, I know this second request requires a bit more commitment on your part, but people would sing your praises if you took the time to do it. Even if it’s just an update to a post that say, “I found a better way to do this…” in a more recent version of the language/tool.
More than just a “brain dump”:
I’ve seen several people use their blogs as a sort of “brain dump” – a place for them to post things that they just want to remember later on. This is all well and good, but don’t forget that blogs aren’t just about code snippets and tutorials. Sometimes you need to share a bit about you and what you’re passionate about too. Take some time to sit and reflect on what you do on a daily basis and think about how knowing that process could help others. I’d encourage you to write not only code-related posts, but also keep the rest of the world up to date on the interesting things you’re doing. Nothing builds communities like people sharing more than just code.
Finally, I’d like to end this post jammed full of suggestions with one final challenge – get out there and share. My recommendations aside, if all you do is write up one or two posts this month (and keep going) with a few paragraphs each, I think the web would be a better place. Sharing knowledge is what it’s all about and if you discover something, no matter how small, you could be sharing exactly what someone needs. Remember, just because you think it’s simple, doesn’t mean someone new to the tech does….get out there and share!