How to maintain motivation when blogging

clock photoAnother year slipped by! They seem to come faster and faster, just as promised by all the old men in the comic strips I read when growing up.

I recently had a couple of conversations about blogging: how to start, why to do it, how to maintain it. I thought I’d capture some of my responses.

After over twelve years of blogging (that’s correct, in 2016 my blog is a teenager!), here are the three reasons that I keep at it.

  • Writing crystallizes the mind. Writing a piece, especially a deep technical piece, clarifies my understanding of the problem (it’s similar to writing an email to the world, in some ways). Sometimes it will turn up items I hadn’t considered, or other questions to search on. It’s easy to hold a fuzzy concept in my mind, but when written down, the holes in my knowledge become more evident.
  • Writing builds credibility. I have received a number of business inquiries from my writing. (I suspect there’d be more if my blog were more focused. The excellent “How to start blogging” course from John Sonmez is worth signing up for.  The number one thing to have a successful blog is subject matter focus. But I have a hard time limiting myself to a single topic. Maybe I’m building credibility as a generalist?) And I’ve had a few people interview me for positions and mention they found this blog. It’s easy to say “I know technology XXX” in an interview or consulting situation, but I have found it to be powerful and credible to say “Ah yes, I’ve seen technology XXX before. I wrote a post about it six months ago. Let me send that to you.”
  • Writing helps others. I have had friends mention that they were looking for solutions for something and stumbled across my blog. In fact, I’ve been looking for solutions to issues myself and stumbled onto a post from my blog, so even my future self thanks me for blogging.  I don’t have many comments (real ones, at least. The spam, oh, the spam), but the ones that are left often thank me for helping them out. And I know I have been helped tremendously by posts written by others, so writing pays this help forward.

Of course, these reasons apply to almost all writing–whether magazine, comments on social networks, twitter, medium, answers on stack overflow or something else.  So why continue to write on “Dan Moore!”?  Well, I did try medium recently, and am relatively active on Twitter, HackerNews and StackOverflow, and slightly less active on other social sites like Reddit and Lobste.rs.  All these platforms are great, but my beef with all of them is the same–you are trading control for audience.  As long as I pay my hosting bill and keep my domain registered, my content will be ever-present.  In addition, my blog can weave all over the place as my available time and interests change.

If you blog, I’d love to hear your reasons for doing so.  If you don’t, would love to hear what is keeping you from doing so.


Year in review, aka what did I ship in 2015

What did I ship (or help ship) in 2015?

(I did this a few years ago, and then became an employee.  Though it is probably even more important to think about what you ship as an employee, when I am a contractor it is easier to publicize it.)

  • Rewrote my farm share directory to support multiple states, numerous bugfixes and a new feature to let folks add reviews.
  • Sent seven newsletters for said farm share directory.
  • An email course to educate consumers about farm shares.
  • Helped take a video to structured data project from failure to success.  I was brought in as a senior engineer to a team and helped with porting an admin app from one environment to another, reviewed and fixed python program which took video and generated images, managing datasets for training, writing java microservices around C libraries, documenting processes, and coordinating with an overseas team as needed.
  • Set up secor to pull logging from kafka to s3, as well as setting up java processes to log to kafka.
  • Helped integrate Activiti into a custom workflow engine, and promoted a test first culture on the team I worked with.
  • Dropped in and helped troubleshoot an e-commerce system with which I was totally unfamiliar during an emergency.
  • Learned enough ruby on rails and Stripe to add an online order form to an existing Heroku website.
  • Helped build a backend system to monitor phone and car locations to prevent texting and driving.  My role on this small team varied between devops, java development, QA, code review, defining process and documentation.
  • Installed and tuned an elk stack used for business intelligence and developer debugging.
  • Took my wife’s writing and turned it into a book (best surprise ever).
  • Wrote 34 blog posts.

Of course, there were other personal milestones too, like camping with the kiddos, getting solar installed, road trips, and date nights with the wife.  All in all, a great year.  Here’s to 2016.



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