Why all programmers should blog

There are some obvious reasons why you should start blogging when you are a programmer. Most of them also apply to everybody else:

  • You share your knowledge. This is a benefit for all of us. If everybody would be blogging about all the little issues they had then a Google-Search would help us even more. I am sure nearly every problem in the world is already solved. It is just not written down.
  • It’s a kind of self marketing. A potential employer can get a much better picture of your abilities than he could from CVs or references. When I hire somebody it is already a huge plus for him when he has a blog at all.
  • Explaining things to other people is the best way to learn. You can only teach what you fully understand. This is at least as efficient as hands on experience.
  • You might even make some money with blogging. There are several sites about this. If you are interested look here or here.

But the main reason is something else. Some years ago I read an article about software documentation. There was a lot of wisdom in it, but one phrase sticked to my brain:

Programming is doing something weird to your brain. When you write a piece of documentation right after a programming session the result is likely to be barely readable for human beings.

If that’s true then the opposite should work too.  Blogging teaches you to write for people, which is exactly what you should do in your code. Good code needs to be easy to understand to be easy to maintain. There are whole books about this like the famous Clean Code by Uncle Bob.

I think blogging does something weird to your brain, that makes your code better readable for human beings. So:

If you want to become a better programmer, start blogging!

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  1. Casper Bang says:

    I agree with that. Also, a blogger can get contacted by head-hunters, get offered free books to review, get offered to write a book etc… but for me, it’s primarily public notes which I can always get to again.

  2. TimH says:

    I disagree. People, programmers especially, should only write when they have something useful to say. Pointless blogs and blog posts only worsen the already-awful web signal:noise ratio.

  3. Guill says:

    I totally agree with TimH: when looking on google for a particular problem, I got a huge amount of irrelevant blog entries. Sometime I even found copy/pasted articles in different blog…
    I like technicall blogs, but every dev should not have their own… maybe a contribution to a forum will be more useful than a massive spawn of uncontrolled blogs…

  4. Joerg says:

    @TimH and Guill

    You might be surprised but I totally agree with both of you. You should not write low quality posts or even copy/paste your articles.
    This would not help any of the purposes I listed. I would not hire somebody that copy/pastes his blogs and you certainly learn nothing about writing for people this way.

    So maybe I should have said;

    If you want to be a better programmer, start writing high quality posts!

    • SeanJA says:

      @Joerg, TimH, Guill

      That is hardly fair, what is the definition of a “high-quality post” exactly? Something that is useful to you when you read it? What if it isn’t useful to you, but is useful to someone else? Granted, a lot of low-quality posts are easy to pick out and ignore, but how do you pick out the high-quality ones though?

      Any writing is a good start, you can get better at writing, which will only help you down the line as people criticize you and point out things you have missed.

      I think your original message was a the right one.

  5. logicmania says:

    yes you are absolutely right.
    But one more thing it’s something callled give and take.
    Usually i use codes from different sites . later i feel guilty when am using it am not sharing anything .Then i started my blog to share my experiences .. Am not frequent blogger but try to paste my code to public.

    anyway it’s a good article and now on i will try to post all my tests in blog. :)

  6. Rick says:

    Good post. Yet another reason: your blog can help you remember how you accomplished things in the past. If I have something I suspect I’ll want to use again in the future, I’ll sometimes post small working snippets in my blogs to show others AND to remind myself how something works.

  7. I agree with this post.
    Even more we blogging, more we can make it better and when we can communicate in a better way what we think important, more easy is the work to make understandable code and docs.
    Congratz.

  8. Mike says:

    Most big companies totally forbid developers from writing blogs related to their work. In fact, in the past two Fortune 100 companies I worked for, the company owned ALL of my code while I was their employee, whether I wrote a util to organize my mp3’s or wrote a business intelligence app in my spare time. So if you rate devs partly on whether they blog or not, you are missing a huge group of potential candidates based on a frivolous requirement.

    • Sam Sweeney says:

      So if you code in your spare time(outside work hours) your employer that code?
      working for a fortune 100 company doesn’t seem so appealing if that’s in a contract I would have to sign.

    • Joerg says:

      > So if you rate devs partly on whether they blog or not, you are missing a huge group of potential candidates based on a frivolous requirement.

      I would of course not base the decision on this sole fact.

  9. Sam Sweeney says:

    I completely agree, and when writing in a blog is productive, and when it’s helping not only other developers, but also yourself; it’s easy to see why so many people do it, and hard to see why other don’t. Those same reasons are why I’m going to start blogging and writing articles myself.

    But of course, if done badly, a blog could also be a negative thing for you, and could potentially leave you open for criticism and ridicule. So you just have to do it right.

  10. I’m going to have to side with TimH here: If you don’t have anything useful to say, there’s no point in setting up a blog to say it. Personally, I have three blogs (one personal, one for programming, and one for diabetes information) and rarely post to any of them.

    I also agree with the main points of the article, however: Programmers should write things that are intended solely for human consumption and should share their knowledge. But this does not imply blogging. My blogs may be dusty and neglected, but I’m active on several technical forums, usually posting to them multiple times a day to answer people’s programming-related questions. I help people, I share my knowledge, I (potentially) market myself to (potential) clients, I write for people – all the benefits you ascribe to blogging, save only for the possibility of getting paid to blog (which I don’t want to to anyhow) – yet without a blog entry in sight.

    • Joerg says:

      Well your blog doesn’t look that dusty or neglected :), but you are right there are more ways then blogging to achieve the benefits. Still it is a very good or even the best way.

  11. Kevin says:

    Exactly the reasons why I started to blog. Our views become much clearer when we write them down. Also writing helps us to become better explainers of things and this helps if you are working in a collaborative environment.

    Also as programmers we tend to bend towards excellence and so blogging places an added incentive on learning new things and writing about them in your blog.

    So I second you on the thought that all programmers should blog.

  12. Nice post, I agree that blogging about something really helps increase your understanding of the topic since you have to explain the issue in great detail to make it understandable.

    The problem with having a blog with quality content though is that it takes a LOT OF WORK. Sometimes it can take hours to put a quality post together, especially if you are including sample code, etc. Although there are the benefits you mentioned, a lot of times those are only potential (and long term) benefits, so it’s easy to begin to wonder whether all of the effort is worth it. After all, you could be spending that time on your main programming projects instead…

    I’ve noticed you’ve been blogging for over a year now. Do you think the effort has been worth it so far? Anyone else have thoughts on this?

    • Joerg says:

      Very true. A blog is a lot of work. It is always hard to put a post together an I certainly was not disciplined enough to post regularly.
      I do still think it is worth it. Doing this blog taught me a lot of things and it was able to surprise me. The biggest surprise was this post. I did not expect so many reactions. I must have hit a point somehow.

  13. Marco Demaio says:

    @Joerg: well i arrived here while I was looking on Google programmers blogs example because I have been thinking to start my programmer blog for quite a long time. I agree with the 2nd point you made: “It’s a kind of self marketing. A potential employer…” and the 3d one, but I still hardly see how could blogging be useful for the other points you made:

    “• You share your knowledge…”
    Well true, but do we need one more blog on the web? Why don’t you simply share it on sites like http://stackoverflow.com

    “• You might even make some money with blogging…”
    The money you make with Adsense on a blog are small bucks, and I think on a programming blog are even smaller bucks, and I suspect this for two good reasons:
    1) I hardly see ADs on programmers blogs
    2) I have never clicked on an AD on a programmer’s blog, I hardly click ADs in general, but I do sometimes clicked ADs on Google SERPs and on some blogs that was not related to programming.

    Last but not least, I do subscribed via RSS feeds to many blogs (currently 7), but no one of them are about programming. The reasons? I think reading must be also a way to relax, when I read about marketing, cooking, how to build company, etc I do relax, when I read how to code this and that, it’s not relaxing, I would need to try it on my PC etc. In some way it’s like math, it’s not something you can read on your way to work while sitting on the bus.

    What do you think?

  14. Aj Banda says:

    I do blogging for almost 4-5 years ago… and one reason why I started is because I wanted to document myself and to make sure that my documentation is accessible anywhere (well, as long as you have Internet)

    It was a few months after when I realized and received thanks from other programmers that I helped because of my online documentation. :)

  15. Mike says:

    I think blogging can be a way to help programmers figure out ways to better plan out their thoughts. I find that I am better able to reason out some of the things that I want to achieve when it comes to my programming as a result.

  16. vinodh says:

    Hi,

    I agree with the content. Particularly that blogging is essential all professionals including programmers. Its easy to get clients who are pre sold.

    Also thanks for the simplex theme thats responsive.
    you saved my money. I thought of buying a premium responsive theme.

    I am a programmer for past 15 years.

    regards
    vinodh

  17. Alex says:

    I think having a family, for me, meant that I now focus more on finishing side projects, because the time I’ve spent on side projects, are vaulable time I could have spend with my family. Being single, some of my ideas died because I had so many ideas, and when a new exiting idea came up, I trashed the old one and started on the new. Family life made me focus — I did not expect that… :-)

    I am very impressed with the information presented here. I do believe that every
    developer/programmer should have side projects. It should not be about making
    them rich either! If you do something you love, it should not be a problem.
    Because the programmer is employed, there will be a need to hire a virtual
    assistant to assist with the administrative tasks of the side project. Some VAs
    are very knowledgeable in software and programming technology. One website that
    software developers can hire VAs is VAnow.net. It is one of best that I know
    has certified, skilled VAs.

  18. Csaba Palfi says:

    I totally agree and have a blog. :) Let me share you a famous Martin Fowler qoute:
    “Any fool can write code that a computer can understand. Good programmers write code that humans can understand.”

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