Coding Horror

programming and human factors

Blogging about Blogging

I've avoided the incestuous nature of blogging about blogging until now, but the topic does come up occasionally. Not everyone is a believer in the utility of blogs; I was a skeptic only two years ago, and Michael Brundage went out of his way late last year to point out that his web site is not a blog. What makes a blog worth reading? I think Rory nailed it with his simple list of qualifications:

  • you have to want to write
  • you have to believe you have something to say
  • you have to have an interesting way of saying it

This is excellent advice, and it cuts to the heart of the question-- you should write blog entries because you are compelled to. If writing a blog entry feels like work to you, or if if you're worried about satisfying anyone other than yourself, then you'll have a difficult time maintaining a blog.

Blogs are interesting because they are honest windows into other people's interests and passions. As it turns out, the world is full of fascinating, extremely smart people. The opportunity to learn what motivates, interests and excites them-- professionally or personally-- is invaluable. And often in a purely practical sense. I've found an answer to a Google query in a blog entry more than once.

I will add two riders to Rory's excellent guidelines:

  • you have to be a decent (not great, but decent) writer

    I'm not the greatest writer, but I know bad writing when I see it. The deck is stacked heavily against you if you can't meet the basic grammar, spelling, and style rules of readable English. You have to be 10/10 in the other areas to overcome truly bad writing. Unfortunately, writing is a hard skill to develop. People literally spend lifetimes becoming better writers. However, the more writing you do-- and the more input you solicit on your writing-- the better you'll get at it. I also find that people who read a lot tend to be better writers. The next best thing to actually writing is reading a lot of good writers. One of my favorite pieces is Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, which I re-read every year. It's amazing on so many levels.

  • you have to enable blog comments

    A blog without comments is not a blog. Period. If there's no two-way communication-- if readers of your blog can't politely point out that you're full of crap-- then whatever you're writing may be great, but it isn't a blog. Without the social dialog of feedback, you're merely publishing-- and publishing is something newspapers have been doing for hundreds of years.

Written by Jeff Atwood

Indoor enthusiast. Co-founder of Stack Exchange and Discourse. Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about. Find me here: http://twitter.com/codinghorror