It all began because I couldn't hold down a job. After graduating, I had five jobs in five years, which was fabulous because I learned a lot. What was not great was losing all my useful scripts every time because I didn't know what I might need again in the future and BYOD hadn't been invented yet. So, I began to write things down in an internet-enabled location.
Storing my notes publicly is incredibly useful. I can send links to other people who ask me questions I once knew the answer to (people who know me well ask the blog for help before they ask me, it's a more reliable witness). I also discovered after a few years that my favourite search engine has a much better idea what I've already written than I have - I regularly find results on https://lornajane.net appearing in my search results and quite often it's exactly what I needed!
At first, it didn't matter what I wrote, nobody read it and I was just throwing things out for future reference. I'd like to write now about how much my approach has improved but I would be lying!! The truth is that I'm still just throwing things out for my future reference. All the bystanders of the internet are very welcome to read it, but almost all of it is written for me in case I need to come back to it. Many bloggers or aspiring bloggers are stuck on not being good enough, not having enough ideas, not having finished building their blog. Perhaps I should have worried about some of those things but it seems a bit late now!
Keeping a blog made me a better writer, mostly because it made me actually write from time to time. Also there was a time where people read blogs and wrote comments and I got some excellent feedback through that (there is some irony that this is the first blog post I've cross-posted to Medium, times do change!). The other thing about blogging is that you write how to do something and then four people chime in and show you at least three better ways to do it!! This has been the best thing ever, I have learned so much from those commenters who took the time to explain very politely that I was giving terrible advice. The moral of that story is that you should always read the comments on blog posts :)
Another side effect has been that my career has included some writing in a professional capacity. From writing from my own blog, to work blogs, to industry publications, to eventually writing a couple of books ... now I'm doing a job that includes writing documentation and tutorials. Combining the written word with solid software engineering skills is pretty rare, and without the blog I don't know if I'd have realised I could write.
Blog As A Brain
My blog is basically an outboard brain, it's full of things I once knew but have completely forgotten. If there's a technology I've worked on, there's probably a post about it on my blog. It's a rare week where I don't come here looking for something or other, whether it's how to set up my IRC client, or the syntax for a particular coding library. Some years I've blogged more than others, and I'm still terrible at metrics, marketing, engagement, and all those other things - it's a wordpress blog with a CDN in front, I just type my thoughts in markdown into the textarea while I'm drinking my coffee in the morning.
As the saying goes "content is king" and I do really believe that. By taking the time to write up my experience into blog posts, I've helped myself to understand countless technical topics. I've given myself an incredible reference library that I can use whenever I need it. And if anyone else finds it useful too, then that just makes a good thing better.
Here's to the next thousand posts!
Also published on Medium.