Start Blogging

Get your dynamic Vapor Trail going by setting up a blog.

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Your blog is your best opportunity to showcase facets of your skills and personality that you couldn't otherwise. It allows you to be a real, 3-dimensional human.

You're probably sold on the value of having a blog but, as with many engineers, writing may not have been your first priority in school. That's okay! If you look at a lot of technical writing on the web, it's pretty dry and straightforward.

Setting Up Your Blog

There are a number of blogging platforms out there (with more every day) and it doesn't really matter which one you choose to use. If you are ambitious, you can integrate your blog directly with your personal site but that isn't actually necessary. It's perfectly fine to simply link to your external blog from your personal site.

While there are a number of sites out there, our favorite is Medium because it makes your writing simply look good. If you don't already have a blog, go to their site and register for an account.

What to Blog About

The inevitable first question anyone asks is "What should I write about?" The implication is that you don't have a lot to say but that's simply not true.

Let's start by re-emphasizing that the short-to-medium-term goal of blogging is to help you expand your vapor trail and ultimately get a job. Many of you will be able to build a habit out of blogging and will find it cathartic but it's okay if you don't. This is best done by remembering what characteristics (the ideal developer) you are trying to portray and writing to emphasize them.

  1. Curiosity -- Feel free to explore new topics and write about how you have learned them. The best posts actually teach the reader how to do something new. Example: "30 minutes with the Go language"
  2. Passion -- Write about interesting projects you've created on your own, even if they aren't directly relevant to coding. It shows technical passion. Example: "Making an alarm clock with an Arduino"
  3. Depth -- Write about tricky technical problems you solved. It's perfectly fine if a dozen other people have also written about that problem -- the point isn't to create a dissertation which expands the field of Computer Science, simply to showcase how you approach a challenging problem. Example: "Applying divide-and-conquer strategies to solving grouping problems"
  4. Growth -- Write about your journey of learning and the great things you've discovered along the way. These can be as personal as you'd like and are a great type of post for making yourself human. Example: "The 5 most important epiphanies I had while learning to code (so far)"

Here are a few examples of student posts from the past:

  1. Joshua M -- The Rainwater Trapping Problem
  2. Jeff G -- Sieve of Eratosthenes
  3. Michael A -- Ruby Tetris

As you can see, the range of things you can write about is wide. For now, the most important step is the first one.

How Often to Blog

As we've said, blogging will be easier for some of you than others. In reality, if you have a blog with posts older than a month, it feels like a ghost town. So, while you can write as often as you feel like it (weekly is a good habit to get into), you should put out content at least monthly.

How to Write Effectively

Luckily, putting out effective blog posts isn't actually that hard. The bar is pretty low. While it would be great to get a 2000 word treatise on some deeply technical topic, you actually don't need more than 3-5 paragraphs. Don't think of writing as needing to be ground breaking or long. If you think of each post as being short and sweet, it will be MUCH easier to get yourself to do it.

Here are some key tips to make your life easier:

  1. Brevity: Keep things short. 3-5 paragraphs is fine. Keep paragraphs short as well; web writing rarely involves including more than ~5 sentences in a paragraph.
  2. Focus: Stick to the topic at hand and don't wander. Ask "What is the key message of this post?" and make sure you do exactly what you need to illustrate it.
  3. Code samples: Code speaks louder than words, so don't be shy about using code samples. Look up how to format them properly to avoid looking amateur.
  4. Proofreading: The final step of each post should be proofreading. You don't have to be a great author, but you can't have typos or major grammatical issues in your writing. Writing is frequently used as a way of measuring intelligence in other people, so go the extra mile to clean things up before you hit the "submit" button.

Hello, World!

You should now have your blog set up and a rough framework for how to actually use it. Where do you start?

Write a "Hello, World!" post as your first post. The content is really up to you, but developers will often kick off with a simple post describing who they are, why they are blogging, and expectations for where they will be going in the coming months/years/posts.

One last thing -- don't be afraid to have fun with it! Your personality is important, so show it off!

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