On July 7, Adam Nash, Mario Sundar and I started the 30 day blog fitness challenge. Today, I write my 30th blog post. For those of you keeping score at home, today is actually August 9th, so it took slightly longer than 30 days. Oh well, I’m just happy I made it.
To get here, I wrote about how much I suck at programming, the apocalypse, pulling all-nighters hacking, and doppelgängers. Occasionally, I resorted to posts that were almost entirely travel photos; at other times, I down right cheated. After one month, I managed to nearly double the number of posts in my 4 year old blog.
Let’s take a look at the impact this had.
Not many people read my blog. Or at least, they didn’t, until shortly after this blog fitness challenge started on July 7. Since then, I’ve had far more traffic than usual; the absolute numbers are still nothing impressive, but it’s a ~10x improvement over just about all previous months. I’ve only seen spikes in traffic like this twice: the most recent was from the “This is where I work” post, thanks to Jeff Weiner and other LinkedIn folks sharing it all over the place. As popular as that post was, it’s only #2 all time. Can anyone guess what’s #1?
Who’s reading this stuff?
No surprises there: hello co-workers at LinkedIn! Thanks for stopping by. I must say that not only are you all good looking, but you also have great taste, both in blogs and in browsers. Seeing Internet Explorer at less than 9% of traffic makes me very happy. In fact, mobile traffic to my blog beats IE by 3%. Sweet!
Blog driven development
When you know you have to write a blog post every night, you start seeing the world a little differently. Every time I had an interesting thought, read a fascinating article or learned something new, I’d wonder if I could blog about it. Of course, being obsessed with lists, I’d write each of these ideas down in a Google Doc. The list is to 64 items now, half of which I wrote about in the last month and half of which are left over for future blogging.
One of the interesting results from this sort of thinking is what Adam described as “blog driven development”. That is, when you start working on a new project, try to image out what the blog post will look like from day one. What will the title be? What are the 3-5 major points you’ll highlight? What screenshots or media will you include? Working through these issues right up front is a powerful way to identify what’s truly important for your project and can make it easier to prioritize and make good trade-offs.
You know that whole communication thing they told you about in college? Turns out it really does matter. You see, software engineering involves far more than just writing code (although writing clean code is all about communicating your intent to other programmers). I spend a lot of my time at work discussing and debating ideas with co-workers, writing emails, IMing, filing bug reports, creating wiki pages, writing documentation, and putting together presentations. I’ve also become the editor for the LinkedIn Engineering Blog, which means I not only write my own entries, I also help other people write theirs.
The 30 day blog challenge proved to be a wonderful training ground for this role. Knowing I had to write an entry every night, regardless of how crazy my schedule was, taught me to write quickly, edit mercilessly, and just get things done. I’ve still got plenty to learn, but practice definitely makes perfect.
New discoveries, new code
One of the delights of having a public blog are the times when someone responds to your writing. There’s a narcissistic component to it, but far more importantly, you often learn something from the replies. I got some great reading recommendations in one post, got in touch with several friends and co-workers who are interested in Crossfit from another post, and even had one of my project ideas that I hadn’t had time to work on implemented for me as an open source project. How cool is that?
Time for a break
The 30 day blog fitness challenge was awesome. Kudos to Adam and Mario for suggesting it. Having said that, I’m pretty tired. I think it’s time for a bit of a break to recharge and recover. But I’ll be back soon. Got something you want me to write about? Let me know in the comments :)