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InHuOfficial
InHuOfficial

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It *IS* possible to get a voice here! [tips to grow on DEV.to + a mini rant!]

I was reading a post about how hard it is to gain traction on DEV a couple of days ago, go give it a read and see if you feel the same way or not:

I found it interesting (as lots of the comments agreed) and I too used to feel the same way (and even catch myself feeling that way now about some of the points raised!).

As such, I thought I would share my thoughts on how to grow your engagement (anywhere, but mainly on DEV), hopefully I can give some motivation to those who find themselves "lost in a sea of voices" and are feeling like you will never gain traction!

And just to show I kind of know what I am on about:

  • 285,644 views
  • 7,213 post reactions
  • 4465 followers
  • 87 posts
  • 1947 comments (yeah, those who know me know I am opinionated! 🤣)

And that was in 11 months as an average Joe noob writer, I haven't released much this year (I have been writing, just building up a buffer, you will see me back in full force in March!)

Anyway with the humble-brag out of the way, here are my tips and, if you fancy it, a rant at the end on content creation and my views on the frustration many of us experience.

Enjoy!

1. Consistency is key

It doesn't matter if you are trying to feed the beast that is Twitter or writing once a month as a hobby on DEV, consistency is the number 1 priority.

What I say to a lot of new writers / content creators is to work out how much content you think you can create in a week...then halve it!

It is much better to release an article regularly every 2 or 4 weeks than it is to release sporadically (I should know, I was guilty of this).

People quickly pick up on patterns, even subconsciously, so if you post at a certain time at a regular interval people will start anticipating your articles.

2. Know what your goals are and write accordingly

A lot of new writers want views. There is nothing wrong with that, in fact you get a lot of people advising "just write what you want to write".

Those people have forgotten the frustration of releasing an epic piece of content and getting 50 views. Something you have poured your blood, sweat and tears into over numerous hours or even days and...* crickets *

So what do we do?

One for them, one for you

Yet again, I made this mistake and certainly hurt my early engagement. I wrote what I wanted to write.

Instead I would recommend that if you are a new writer who wants to grow and still write about what interests you to write "one for them" (a pandering article...more on that in a second) and "one for you" (something you are passionate about but it might be a bit too "niche" for the platform).

So what is a "pandering" article (what will get engagement on DEV)?

Anything for beginners and code newbies and anything JavaScript, specifically React!

Or listicles, everyone loves a "13 amazing tips" listicle as it is low effort to read and you might learn something.

I may not like these kinds of articles, but they garner engagement and followers...and followers and engagement means growth!

Also don't be fooled that just because people click on these "low brow" articles they won't engage with your more complex stuff, they will, generally people will engage with your content once they follow you...and that is where the true and meaningful engagement starts to happen.

3. Quantity first

Yet again this is a beginners guide to growth.

Here is a little secret: nobody will care what you write or remember your name for the first few months of writing, you need to build a reputation and earn the right to "expect" people to invest time consuming your content.

It might seem like a bad thing, but it is actually a great thing!

You can produce lower-effort posts in higher quantities and get those all important early eyeballs.

The trick is to produce "quality quantity", and that takes practice.

And how do we practice? By writing of course!

So while you are starting out, just practice writing, structuring your content to make it easy to consume etc.

You are aiming for 30 "half decent" articles as quickly as possible (15 "for them" and 15 "for you").

Don't worry about perfection early on, just get your points across and make sure they add value in some way (yes, even a listicle can add value if you put in a tiny bit of effort!)

This gives you a good base to grow from and means that when people discover you they can see that you have plenty to say.

Then once you have a base you can put more time into crafting higher quality content as you will get more views (so you worry about that less). As long as you stay "on topic" you will not lose many followers.

Plus this early stage of getting to "critical mass" will help you hone your writing style and structuring articles etc.

I mentioned "quality quantity", if you want to see an example of "quality quantity" check out

Chris is a content machine (an article every...single...day), but also writes very well.

That is why you should just write, Chris's writing improved with effort and repetition, to the point now where you would be hard pressed to find a flaw in any of his work. If you look at Chris's early writing it wasn't "raw talent" (although he certainly has some of it) but repetition and practice that turned him into such a great writer!

Note: I am not suggesting you release as much content as Chris, or even that you should consider putting that kind of pressure on your content creation, Chris is a bit of a unicorn, just do what you feel you can do comfortably and enjoy yourself!

4. Engage with a community

Look, you might be lucky and get a mega viral article in your first week on DEV...I can tell you that it is unlikely to happen.

In fact, I have never had a single article break 20k views!

No, instead I engaged with other authors.

You see, authors want that engagement (it is one of the reasons people write...to make connections). So if you are the one engaging with their content they are far more likely to check out your profile and see that you produce content too.

Additionally it gives you a quick way to get more eyeballs on what you have to say.

For example: Here is what many would call "a low effort post":

And they are right, the post itself would not have taken Ben long to write and it got a lot of engagement!

But bear in mind that Ben has released loads of different types of content, in various formats, nearly all of it super high quality...he has earned high engagement through consistent effort and that is what you need to do.

Anyway, the point wasn't the post itself, it was my comment there.

170 likes on a comment...that is more than most of my articles!

I can tell you (because I watch my notifications carefully) I got about 25 followers from that one comment (it is a rough guess but I see a like from someone, then a follow immediately after plus a couple of article likes from them and I can guess that comment was the "discovery point" of my work.)

But for the other 1946 comments they may only get 1 like from the post author.

But that post author, if I comment on their stuff often, will likely follow me. They may even mention me in their article and get my article some more views (if I have written something relevant).

Hell, if you comment often enough and people start to recognise you as someone who contributes to a particular subject you might even get "summoned" to comment. This happens to me on accessibility articles quite often, someone will @ me to come and check the accuracy of an article. You don't think that would happen if I just wrote an article every 3 months and didn't engage do you?

It all takes effort and time, in fact if you look at my comments you will see I have written essays in some of them.

I want to add value in my comments, and by adding value I gain engagement...it is a win-win!

Also I like commenting on articles just to show support as a fellow author.

Writing takes effort with very little reward at first (I am now at the stage I get paid to write and job offers...it took time!), so don't underestimate how much of a boost even a single comment can give an author, especially in the dark days of 0 engagement "tumbleweed" posts!

Also, if people take the time to comment on your article, respond to them and put effort into your responses, engagement works both ways and you have to earn follows!

5. Quick fire round: tips and tricks

This article is getting long, so here are a few tips that don't need as much detail / people have written about extensively so I don't need to cover the same ground, just as an interlude!:

Learn to structure articles
Use proper headings, lists, etc. Your goal is to make content easy to skim, as well as read "cover to cover". But more than that it makes your articles more accessible and rank better for SEO...learn to use HTML and markdown properly! Here are some tips to write better content
Build a social media following
I literally just turned up my Twitter game (and will ramp up even more when I start releasing articles again). Social media gets you a few early eyeballs on your articles. Those early likes and unicorns make the article appear further up the feed, so you get more likes etc. I made the mistake of only building a following on one platform, recycle content onto other platforms, they all feed each other!
Make an engaging cover
Your cover image will show on social media shares and in the timeline if you are lucky. Make it engaging and relevant. I cheated and just created a standard template for mine...branding is important too. But if you don't want to do that, pick an interesting image or a GIF (if appropriate), visuals get more engagement!
Write in conversational style
Write to the person reading your article (you, we, us) as if you are chatting with them, it will increase engagement.
Ask for follows and shares
I made this mistake (basically this whole article is "don't do what I used to do" 🤣), if you want followers ask for them. Just a simple call to action at the end of your article with what you want people to do. Follow you, share on social media etc. etc. Also, try and give them a reason "I write every week about XXX, follow me so you don't miss out"
Recycle content
Writing content takes time and effort. So recycle it! Pick out key sentences and tweet them, create an infographic if appropriate etc. The more different mediums you can create your content in the better.
Put time into promotion
Another one of my mistakes...seeing a pattern here? Don't release content and expect it to magically go viral. Make it happen. In fact I have changed my whole release schedule so 50% of my time is spent on promoting what I write and building connections with people who might enjoy my content / promote it naturally. "Build it and they will come" is a complete myth, "shout about it and grow" is what I say.
A dirty little secret
Here is a tip that is as close to a "growth hack" as you will get from me. Heart, unicorn and bookmark your own article and leave a comment on it the second your publish. It helps your feed position, it makes the article more attractive in the feed (people are more likely to skip your article if it has no reactions) and it gives you a tiny boost. It feels a bit weird at first but for the sake of 30 seconds it is worth it!

OK, did you enjoy that interlude?

Back to the main tips...

6. Develop your "tone of voice"

I am (or was, recent events mean those are not going to happen here on DEV anymore) the "angry rants" person.

I developed a writing style that worked for me, I showed some personality and you should too!

Whether that is with comedic GIFs (please don't overdo it!), emojis (same again, a couple is fine), jokes or dark humour (not suitable for DEV) find what works for you.

People read your content as much for your writing style as they do for your content. People also read your content because they get to like you as a person and want to support you. Make it interesting, make it engaging, give people a reason to come back for more and a reason to read your stuff over the 100,000 other articles about the same subject!

7. Tags matter...a lot

I know DEV are trying to improve their feed, but it will nearly always revolve around tags.

So if you write in a "quiet" tag, be prepared for fewer views (I write in #a11y often, I always expect my articles there to perform worse than articles in #javascript).

Going back to the "one for them" method, write articles that fit with popular tags and use those tags.

JavaScript, Beginners, Tutorial, CSS, React...they all perform well.

Oh and for nearly any article the #webdev tag is likely to fit, so use that as a fall-back.

Take some time to look at the tags page, they are ordered by popularity (well, number of posts, which indirectly affects the people who read here and therefore content that will perform well / is popular)

Unless you are really struggling to justify it, try and use all 4 tags you are allowed to add to an article and try and go for the more popular ones (without just choosing randomly, find the balance!)

My personal take on DEV, content creation and the frustrations of growth (my turn to rant!)


Note: the article is over, I just felt like ranting on this point and my personal views. I rambled a bit but I want to leave it in and unedited as it gives you an accurate picture of my thought process.

Please do not read this bit if you are a person who doesn't cope well with strong opinions that differ to your own or are critical of your views, instead jump down to the comments if you want and share some of your tips as I would love to hear them!


My rant:
Look, we can all point fingers, I have done it many times in the past, but overall you can't blame DEV for your own failings.

That is a harsh truth but every time someone says "DEV is not the place to grow" or "why bother writing decent content as it gets no engagement" etc. what they are actually saying is it didn't work for them with the way they approached it.

Trust me, I have said it, I still catch myself comparing my article's number of likes to that of a 5 minute "top 10 productivity apps" post. I share the same frustrations!

I am one of the first to see some "grifter" writing listicles each week and getting thousands of views and feel myself getting annoyed.

But it is only when I look inward and see why I am not creating the same content as them, then look outward and see why creating that type of content works so well, that I can safely say "I am the problem". (Is this what growing as a person looks like? Am I finally maturing? I doubt it! 🤣)

To show you what I mean, let's take the DEV feed.

It certainly does promote low quality crap too often. So that is obviously DEVs fault right? Right?

Well if you take a step back you realise that any algorithm will be influenced by what people want to read (or at least any algorithm designed to grow a site).

It isn't DEVs fault that "10 VS code plugins you have to use right now" gets thousands of upvotes, while a 16750 monster article on accessibility only gets a few hundred:

You want high effort? It took over 20 hours. You want quality? Pretty sure it delivered. It still did not perform well and that is just unfair, surely?

Don't get me wrong it is top for #a11y for the year, so it did "OK", but I would have expected more than 9000 views on a piece like that.

But is that just an unrealistic expectation? Almost certainly yes!

This is where you need to take a step back. It certainly isn't DEVs fault that listicles do well (I am aware that article is technically a listicle, but you hopefully know what I mean) and long form content doesn't, it is all about interests and attention spans etc. DEV certainly can't fix that.

It also isn't DEVs fault that accessibility is still a "secondary" subject in the Developer community so doesn't have the same interest level!

It also isn't DEVs fault that I expected a lot more views.

No it is my fault.

I want to write about those things that are less popular, I want to write long form content, fewer people want to read that stuff.

And, I might add, despite the moaning it does not matter that it got low views really, it got high engagement per view and helped people...the views are just vanity, making a difference, even to just one person is what matters!

When you start looking at these things you start to consider things like the fact that some people don't have time to read your well-crafted long-form article.

They may be waiting for a train, or eating their breakfast while doom scrolling social media feeds. They might have just 2 minutes to read something, anything, so a listicle will do and deliver on their expectations of time required (or effort required) to read it. A 75 minute read-time article is not going to suit what they need.

This probably answers why questions do well, people can start forming their thoughts on a question instantly, scan read the responses and get loads of (hopefully differing) opinions in just a few seconds! It adds value to their day and fits their current needs.

We can take this further as to why certain content performs better than other content.

The reason you get more comments on a quick question that took 30 seconds to post, rather than a long article that took hours is actually quite straight forward.

People write comments to share an opinion, if you ask a question or make a bold statement it invites opinions. So of course you will get more comments on an article like that (and it will do better in the feed as comments make up part of the ranking algorithm).

But, with all that being said, there is a key factor that is less tangible: does asking questions and creating listicles help your "personal brand", does it help build up your authority in a subject? Probably not.

Long term, that personal brand value does start to add up and results in opportunities and meaningful conversations. If that is what you really want from your writing then focus on that and ignore the numbers.

At the same time, don't see it is a bad thing asking questions and writing quick articles, see it as an opportunity to grow quickly and establish a base (the "one for them").

Take the time to engage with some stuff you might see as "low effort", you will be surprised at the exposure you can gain for your "high effort" work just from participating in things that others find interesting and throwing your thoughts into the mix.

It took me a long time to realise (I am a slow learner!), just because I want in-depth and high quality pieces, doesn't mean that everybody does. I realised I should not hate on people who write listicles, they are giving the people what they want.

Creating content takes effort, even "low effort" content is someone sharing things with and adding things to the world.

I have infinitely more respect for someone who creates rather than someone who purely consumes.

I also do not know their personal circumstances. Are they short on time and that is all they have time to create? Is English a second language so listicles with less text and more graphics is in their comfort zone? etc.

They may create that content because that is all they can create at the moment due to their own circumstances. Who am I to criticise (even though I do, but that is my character flaw 🤣)?

All I wish is that we could move the needle a little, encourage people to engage with high effort content more. Give those authors who add depth to subjects and answer those tougher questions the exposure they deserve for their effort.

DEV are working hard to do that and I will defend their efforts to try and move that needle in what is an almost impossible task. (And that is from someone who often clashes with the DEV team due to our differing ideologies!)

Will low effort / short form content ever stop cluttering your feed?

Given the rise of TikTok, YouTube shorts, twitter etc. you have to take a step back and realise, people like quick and short content, things that are easy to consume, things that are "low risk" (do I want to read a 15 minute article from an unknown author that might be full of errors vs a 30 second video that may also be full of errors but I have invested far less time in?). Long form content is a harder thing to "sell" in a fast paced and over-crowded space, so you need to be prepared to play "the long game" if you want to write high effort pieces all the time.

I think low effort content is going to be in a feed anywhere that allows people the freedom to post without an editorial process. You just have to learn to live with that and the by product that it makes it harder to get noticed in the noise.

So, after all of that, I suppose the real question is, are you willing to "play the game" a little bit and pander? Create the content people want to see and casually engage with, in exchange for more meaningful engagement on your more thought provoking / higher quality pieces in the future?

I think the answer is yes you should! The short term "pain" of writing things that may not be 100% for you is more than offset by the growth and the small platform it allows you to build for yourself.

In summary: if you aren't growing it is your fault, it is down to choices you make. That is not saying those choices are bad, but you certainly need to put in the effort and adjust your content creation if views and growth are your primary concern. Once you reach a certain size, pivot to writing more and more content you want to see, you should hopefully have the community around you at that point to support it!






Thanks for reading, please let me know your thoughts and any tips you have for growth in the comments. Oh and don't forget to give this article a ❤ and a 🦄, it really does help and is appreciated!




Discussion (100)

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lukeshiru profile image
Luke Shiru • Edited on

I agree with you that is possible to grow, but I don't think is because of the same reasons. From my point of view, the main problem I noticed with the posts I see is that more often than not post are:

  • Self-promotions without nothing useful on them (like dev process, code examples, challenges and so on).
  • Things that everyone already wrote about (what is this in JS, introduction to TypeScript, getting started with JavaScript, etc.).
  • Biased top 10!
  • X of N days of code challenge!
  • Hi, my name is X, please hire me!
  • 10 tips to be a better developer (aka 10 terrible tips).
  • How to pass an interview (aka a terrible interview 😅).

People saying that is hard to grow in the platform generally are just trying to grow instead of actually post content that might be useful or interesting for the people reading. I've seen folks "strategically" using famous people in the cover just to attract more clicks, like this was Facebook and they wanted to just be another click-bait. From my personal experience, following your list of tips:

  1. Consistency is key: I'm not consistent at all, I just post when I want to post. The only thing that I try to do consistently is do it at a time of the day where somebody might read it.
  2. Know what your goals are and write accordingly: I agree with this one, mainly because I post about certain topics that I want to cover, and that seems to be interesting for other folks. I don't try to write about everything, just about WebDev in general. My only difference in opinion with you is that I always write about things that are interesting for me, no for "the readers". So I always write what I want to write. Sometimes somebody makes a suggestion of a future post, and I do it only when I like the suggestion.
  3. Quantity first: I'm more on the boat of "quality first", that's why I only have 13 post published and 5 on draft, and I take my sweet time writing them, and polishing them (and I still screw up some times). I've seen folks with more than double that amount of posts, and are all topics covered in better detail by other authors in the site. Heck, I even follow you because I love the quality of your posts, not because of your frequency.
  4. Engage with a community: This I agree 100%. Some of the examples I gave on the first part of my comment are folks that not only write stuff like that, but they hide comments or block the comment section, or they never reply to comments. One has to connect with the audience if they expect to have any kind of engagement. Besides the comments might have some great insights that are being missed. After all we are all developers, and as such, we are constantly learning new stuff.
  5. Quick fire round: tips and tricks
    • Learn to structure articles: I generally structure articles in blocks of the topics I want to talk about, and then put as much code snippets as possible because we are devs and we want to read some code after all.
    • Build a social media following: I don't have a huge "social media follow up" at all (~550 followers on twitter), but I still every time I publish I announce it on Twitter, just to let anyone there know about the article.
    • Make an engaging cover: My covers generally are just the title to make it look fancier, with an image in the background kinda related to the title. The cover is only visible when you're the article on the top and when folks actually go into the article ... and sometimes I prefer no cover at all instead of seeing that one that everyone uses.
    • Write in conversational style: My format is kinda conversational, but not completely. I try to "start a conversation", thats for sure.
    • Ask for follows and shares: I'm not on the boat of "please follow and subscribe" because that never had an effect on me as an audience, so I don't expect others to do it.
    • Recycle content: Same for the recycling. If folks weren't interested in my posts in the past, I doubt they'll be later on. One thing I actually do is if there is a topic that I'm debating and I wrote about it, I mention my article there just to avoid repeating myself.
    • Put time into promotion: I mentioned this already, but my only "strat" is publishing at lunch time, so people actually read the article. Publishing at 3AM is not a great idea.
    • A dirty little secret: Self reacting can be useful if your article didn't receive any reactions in a few minutes, so yeah, this "hack" might work. What I don't do is self commenting. If I want to add something to the article, I just add something to the article 🤣
  6. Develop your "tone of voice": This I agree again, and I would add: Keep that tone of voice friendly/playful. Our industry is already filled with assholes, so don't be one yourself (and also don't expect folks to react positively to you if you do it).
  7. Tags matter...a lot: YAS! And tags need to actually reflect the content of the post, not just be there for "engagement". Adding #javascript to your article introducing yourself doesn't help engaging.

Sorry for the long comment, as usual great post!

Cheers!

PS: My stats aren't as great as yours, but here:

  • 1.9k reactions.
  • 90k views.
  • 3.5k followers.
  • 13 posts.
  • ~400 comments.

And pretty much everyone here knows that I comment a lot of posts, because I spend a lot of time here (my two most active sites in the last few months are Twitter and DEV).

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial Author • Edited on

Never apologise for a long comment, you know they are more than welcomed on my posts (good or bad) and yours are always really interesting and engaging so they are especially welcomed.

The thing that perhaps got lost in my post was the "sometimes you have to get mucky and do things you do not like for the greater good" aspect.

I don't want a feed full with rubbish and self promotion, but I also have changed my view that writing some articles purely for growth is OK and even something I encourage.

I think I agree with every one of your (counter? Agreeing?) points! The real gem in there is "I generally structure articles in blocks of the topics I want to talk about", this is a great tip for people who want to write about varied subjects but still make it easy for people to engage. Damn, I missed a real good one there! 🤣

In fact the only point that I possibly do "disagree" with (would question is more accurate) is:

I'm not on the boat of "please follow and subscribe" because that never had an effect on me as an audience, so I don't expect others to do it.

There is a ton of research and case studies that show that asking for likes, asking for follows etc. all result in higher follows / likes, but it very rarely puts people off (as long as it is subtle and you don't repeat it over and over again in the same piece of content). It is probably the one thing I would say "do it, it could help, it certainly won't hurt!"

As always your comment is better than my original article...you should really just start a blog with all your comments on 🤣

p.s. as for the "my stats aren't as good", I would say you are wrong there.

You have a higher view rate and reaction rate per article than me! Those are the real statistics that matter for someone who writes out of passion and enjoyment and show what I already know, you write consistently high quality and engaging content!

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lukeshiru profile image
Luke Shiru

Oh yeah, I'm not saying asking for likes/follows doesn't work, that's definitely a personal opinion. I avoid it because I don't like it. I might try adding something like "you can follow me to know when the next post on this series is published" or something like that, to check if that helps with engagement.

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial Author

Ah, get you now! 100% do it in a style that fits your personality and do what works for you! (unless your personality is like mine and really enjoy swearing, roasts and articled written with "venom", in which case maybe let just 50% of your personality out on somewhere like DEV...or get a ban like I did 🤣)

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lukeshiru profile image
Luke Shiru

Sometimes I get a low-quality flag, I get you.

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ingosteinke profile image
Ingo Steinke

Didn't even know that existed on DEV. I rarely report posts (only obvious spam with no dev aspect at all).

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lukeshiru profile image
Luke Shiru

Some of my posts have a few, but generally are folks being confrontational/hateful, or commenting something completely unrelated.

example

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miketalbot profile image
Mike Talbot

Got to say I agree with this and would say that you do have a very specific tone of voice which is recognisable and generally speaking very clear and descriptive. I think we'd disagree on a few things (Typescript lol) but I think your comments and posts are great.

I also don't want to write here because I want an audience, when I have something to say or that interests me then I'll write it, I hope that this is generally useful or interesting and definitely not something someone else has recently said.

I have to admit that my Dev browsing habits include checking what you've commented on and reading that.

@inhuofficial also has a very particular and enjoyable style and very unique content.

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial Author

Aww Mike I am blushing. A money filled envelope is on it's way to you 😉

I 100% agree on writing when you feel like it, if that is what suits you. These guidelines are certainly geared towards someone who wants to "get serious" about content creation (probably geared towards content creators who want to make a living out of it) and I perhaps have not expressed that perfectly!

As for disagreeing on typescript, possibly, but I am always open to being persuaded! 😁

And I can confirm that when you do decide to post I always find it interesting, well written and useful!

I have to admit that my Dev browsing habits include checking what you've commented on and reading that.

haha, well it is either going to be really good or really bad if I have commented, I do live on the extremes when it comes to my content reading 😂

Honestly this comment really warmed my heart, thanks so much for it and I hope you are well as we haven't interacted in ages (it is practically March...what is happening to the year?)!

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dylanlacey profile image
Dylan Lacey

Hard agree on not being grumpy as a voice. Sure, it works if you're smart about it, but so many people find it easier to be mean then humorously grumpy and we don't need more snark.

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parenttobias profile image
Toby Parent

I appreciate this, very much. And the points are great. I think the key is, know your "why". Why are you looking for more eyes, more follows, more attention? If you start from a "what", like "I want more people to follow me!" without a "why", like "I would like to become an influencer, because I would like to help others find their voice and I want a less toxic ecosystem for all of us."

Going simply from the "what" is why we get clickbait, and why we get garbage posts. Folks think that starting a flame war of negative attention is still attention. And as a culture and an ecosystem, we prove them right.

But going from the "why," we start with far less traction. My viewership is low, my numbers are small, my voice is a tiny one - and that's okay. The folks who do see what I write value what I'm saying, and we have great conversations.

If the focus is "I wanna be an influencer" there are all sorts of ways to accomplish that. If the focus is "I want to help shape this into a healthy, creative, positive and supportive space, and I can do that by ..." Then the ways to accomplish that become more defined, but way more worth it.

Thank you for this piece!

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial Author

Damn it, you just hit on a point I really should have made, the why!

In fact without that part perhaps my article isn't clear that the "why" of creating some pandering content is to help you reach more people with your true passion!

Honestly I wish there was some place I could release an article, get great ideas, suggestions and feedback like this and then...just release it again as if nothing happened! 🤣

I think the other gem in here is how the motivation behind writing has such a huge influence on the quality and type of content being produced. Hell, I should have written an article about that instead as that would really spark some interesting debate!

Thanks so much for the comment Toby, it gave me a few things to think about and some interesting "internal debates" will likely occur in my head thinking about the balance between writing for growth and the motivation behind each article etc! ❤

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parenttobias profile image
Toby Parent

Sounds like the foundations of your next article. If you get a chance, try watching Michael Junior's YouTube Video, "Know Your Why". It absolutely firmed this concept in my own head.

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial Author

Think I found the clip, the one with the guy who sings amazing grace and then "the hood version" and the comparison of the two? That certainly does frame it well and is a great example! Thanks for that!

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parenttobias profile image
Toby Parent

Exactly that one! Yes, it really drives home that, while we know the what, we need to consider the why.

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial Author

Really enjoyed it, great share! 💪

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ingosteinke profile image
Ingo Steinke

Everyone of us should be required to type this sentence before writing anything else:

"I would like to become an influencer, because I would like to help others find their voice and I want a less toxic ecosystem for all of us."

Very well said! Thank you!

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leob profile image
leob

Couldn't have said it better - in this day and age of social media and influencers we're so obsessed with numbers, always more, more, more ... I say, small is beautiful, quality over quantity!

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial Author

I say, small is beautiful, quality over quantity!

I keep telling my fiancé that but she just won't listen 🤣.

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leob profile image
leob

Hahaha I'm not going to inquire about the details ;)

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valeriavg profile image
Valeria

Your advice is to lower the standards and keep cluttering other people's feed with "50 shades of React". I think that if my chances of getting heard are higher on a search engine - I should do just that :-)

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial Author

You didn't read it properly if that is what you took away! 😋

As someone who knows how to play the game (I remember reading a listicle of yours that was entertaining on Go or something) I hope this was just me missing the joke! 🤣❤

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valeriavg profile image
Valeria

Oh please don't take any offence, I didn't mean that your articles are as bad as the novel in question.
But you are rather an exception than a rule. All I'm saying is that if authors feel that they aren't heard on a certain medium, maybe the problem is not the author 😅
Good writing doesn't scale.

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial Author • Edited on

No no, Valeria we have interacted enough that you should know I will never take offence, I like being challenged (a firm believer that differing views are what help you grow, not a crowd of "yes you are right" people) so I am one person you never need to apologise to (unless you call me some expletive...and even then I will probably just laugh!)!

But I was quite surprised by your take so I thought you were being sarcastic (my default setting as a Brit but so hard to tell in text whether it is sarcasm or not 🤣)

100% agree good writing doesn't scale, but I would argue that anyone can get heard on a medium with enough patience, practice and involvement in that community, I think unrealistic expectations are what drive the frustration many of us experience.

I do think a few of the points I was trying to make have got lost (serves me right for just "writing as it came to me" rather than doing what I normally do and planning the article properly!).

I was essentially saying "play the game" when you are a new writer and improve your writing while you do, and, in some ways, defending listicle writers themselves as I do not know their motivation and want to give them the benefit of the doubt!

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valeriavg profile image
Valeria

As a reader, I want to get to know the author, understand their point of view, learn something or get entertained. Fine-tuned articles in most cases turn out to be very alike. And they get traction and other authors are engaging in the comments so that their conveyor articles can get some too, creating an endless cycle of content for the sake of noise which overshadows rare unique pieces more and more.

And as a writer I could sit and write "10 creative ways to shoot yourself in a foot with Redux" or "How to master Kubernetes in 3.5 seconds" every day before breakfast and they still will be better than yet another "Difference between var, let and const in JS". My most popular article had 30000 views and 1k+ reactions and it is a result of said optimisation and it's almost entirely useless :-)

My favourite article has 3k views and 40 reactions, it's 1 year old, yet still relevant and keeps getting views from search engine and rare but positive feedback from readers. But this article "expired" and no amount of engaging is going to bring it back to the feeds.

But that article at least had some google-able keywords (and that's how the new readers find it). I doubt someone would actually search for e.g. "build server with css" one year from now unless they are high as a kite. Yet Pascal's piece has a lot of valuable insights and doesn't deserve to be covered with tons of "999 way to iterate an array in JavaScript".

There, did I make it any clearer now? (NOT sarcasm 😅)

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial Author

Much clearer and I agree on your points, there is just one thing missing - the popular and optimised article...is that the entry point for people to follow you and read your favourite article?

That is my whole argument really, write some optimised pandering "rubbish" as we see it, get more eyeballs on the stuff you care about.

So I would say, go write that article before breakfast you don't care about...then write one that you care about and link to it from you crappy and pandering article as a "you might also like" type link!

And yet again, I can easily track how a crap article prompts people to read my better ones, so although an old article of mine might be dead in the feeds it will still get the occasional like as a result of a new article I posted if it is shown in the sidebar or I link to it deliberately.

Don't get me wrong, I totally get it, we live in a world that rewards people for licking toilet seats on planes or literally sitting there while they watch a video of someone with talent, and receiving 100 times more views than the original piece of content. We can't move that needle, so we need to compete, so I say "play the game a little, your hard work deserves to get noticed".

Hopefully I have made myself a little more clear now!

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valeriavg profile image
Valeria • Edited on

Yup, but there's nothing wrong with your article, I got it the first time :-)
And that's a valuable advice for a newcomer that tries to get his first job and needs something to show to the hiring manager (huge market, wise choice for target audience, not sarcasm).
And as you rightfully noticed I haven't placed a link to the articles I've talked about, because as weird as it is I come here to talk to you, get to learn your perspective, not to do a plug. Thank god my articles don't have business needs and I can choose not to do it! But wouldn't world be a better place if we won't need to do it?

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial Author • Edited on

Oh 100% I wish we didn’t have to play the game!

The only thing I have to say is share the article you love with me in the comments, I have no issue at all with that and would love to see your favourite! ❤️

Massive difference between genuinely sharing something that is relevant and just spamming a link to your article for views. Your intentions are pure, fire away 🤣

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valeriavg profile image
Valeria

NOTICE: This is not a plug 🤣

dev.to/valeriavg/how-to-use-custom...

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hanpari profile image
Pavel Morava

Users come and go. On dev.to, one can win easily a huge number of followers if one continues delivering content of average quality.

Dev.to makes no effort to filter repetitive content. If I only could kill every single one who writes an article about VS Code plugins we all know about, I would be genocidal maniac in no time.

The rant you are referring was about being on par with such useless articles, especially if one tries to deliver something more beneficial.

As for your humble bragging. I have more than 30k followers of my Quora space, over millions views, yet I know these number are artificial and skewed in favor of making me thing my effort is not futile.

In reality, most of them are delivered by bots or users that just saw my articles in their feed by coincidence.

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial Author

All very true points.

Yes, follower numbers need dividing by 10 to get an accurate reflection of who will truly engage (maybe divide by 20 or 50?), but it is certainly something that influences the initial reach of an article, which has a snowball effect. As always, everything is relative and if I implied that follower numbers were mega important...they are a nice boost let's just say that, not the be all and end all.

As for the VS code articles and the potential genocide...I am certainly up for a less extreme version of the same idea 🤣 Could we perhaps just create a plugin that filters the words "VS Code" and "tips" or "plugins" to make our lives a little better without resorting to mass murder? 😋

I found the rant informative (or more precisely the resulting comments), I gain inspiration from strange places and this was just my way of telling new authors "keep going, you can make it", perhaps my message got lost as this was not a planned article just a "as I write it" quick piece!

FYI the humble brag was not actually meant to be a brag at all, just to show some numbers that are easily achievable by even an average Joe like me. It just looked a bit "boastful" without context so I was trying to make a joke, not a point, I obviously failed 🤣!

I think I agree with what you are saying 95%, I think the only bit we might be slightly apart on is the importance of a following, yes it might be an inflated number, but the bigger that number the bigger your engagement so I do think it is relevant (to growth and getting engagement), even if it is not important (in terms of people who use that number to prove their self worth!)

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hanpari profile image
Pavel Morava

Yep, the snowball effect may work, but it is a longtime run, and we people usually want to see quick reward to our efforts.

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial Author • Edited on

100%!

Patience is a commodity many lack, but if you can apply consistent effort and be patient great things will come.

Ghandi probably 😋

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hanpari profile image
Pavel Morava

Even if people lack patience, they can still contribute greatly if someone or something encourages them.

This is why I believe that people should work in groups of the same goal or mind that keep covering them for their shortcomings.

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial Author

yet again, agree, groups of like minded people foster growth (in any aspect of life). They say you are the sum total of your ten closest friends and so you should choose who you spend time with wisely!

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ingosteinke profile image
Ingo Steinke
  1. Consistency is key
  2. Quantity first

Yes, but also no! We already discussed consistency (remember my rant Stop rewarding quantity!), and you have sort of convinced me that consistency can mean helpful habit building, but I still see the greatest "value" of consitency is that alorithms and probably also other human readers seem to like it. Personally, I still prefer sporadical updates, not based on measured time but rather saying something when there is something to say and respect that there might be many things in life that are much more important than writing and releasing a DEV blog post.

People quickly pick up on patterns, even subconsciously, so if you post at a certain time at a regular interval people will start anticipating your articles.

Sounds creditble, but could you possible quote a source?

One for them, one for you

That's a very practical tip! I think I have somehow, subconsciously, come to the same conclusion. My recent post some useful git commands started as a stopgap as I didn't manage to finish my upcoming post on CSS blend-modes in time, to continue my series "What's next in CSS". I thought I might just paste some commands from my bash history that I tend to use more frequently after rediscovering, like git log -p. Then I saw that this could actually become a helpful #beginner article, and, to my surprise, the practical dev even featured it on twitter.

With about half an hour for writing the post in its initial form, and another hour for subsequent additions, this is probably the most efficient writeup I have done so far, making it a relatively low-effort "one for them" article.

  1. Engage with a community

Another practical tip with several benefits at once!
Mentioning (@) authors and quoting their posts (\{% post) invites others to discuss, it helps to connect related posts and form some kind of thread, plus it is one of the easy ways to add more visual variety to a post without creating any imagery or even a codepen.

Make an engaging cover ... pick an interesting image or a GIF (if appropriate)

The annotation in brackets is the most important one, at least for me!
I am a person that gets annoyed quickly by GIF images, even more so if they show some dude who might be an American actor but I don't get the meme because I don't watch TV and I prefer independent films over mainstream movies. And even if I do get it, most is just irrelevant and if you need Sponge Bob or Home Simpson to get attention, then maybe your content is not that relevant at all? But sometimes it is, and people still put animated images between every paragraph! At least I live in Germany where the internet connection can get so slow that I don't have to endure that sort of "engaging" content in its entirety.

Write in conversational style ... as if you are chatting with them

Another point where I might agree and disagree at the same time. Conversational chatter adds noise that can make it harder to concentrate on the actual content, but on the other hand, DEV is a community and not a university, so conversational words can add personality and a feeling of personal contact to a post. But it doesn't make a difference if it sounds exactly like 99% of all other people would have said it, and it can even alienate readers if it's too specific to a conversational culture (like my pseudo-British German English might be as well!)

Like animated GIFs, some kind of conversational style makes me cringe, like:
Hey y'all, how are you all doing, guys? As we all know, React is the greatest JavaScript framework. So today we want to build something that will blow you away!"
In this made up example, the noisy idioms just add to some other facts like false premises and spammy click bait wording.

Make an engaging cover

Luckily DEV, unlike medium, does not incentive to add a "high quality image" just for the supposed sake of growing interaction, which makes authors browse Unsplash to add some mostly irrelevant stock photography, making them more indistinguishable instead of original. But using a cover image is indeed a good tip, as we don't want to waste the possible space and color as opposed to posts without cover images that occupy less space in a list of posts.

As we're in a community for developers, I prefer code examples and embedded code pens instead of animated memes, and likewise I tend to take a screenshot or make a collage of multiple screenshots as a cover image. Beware that DEV crops uploaded images if they don't match the target aspect ratio, so make sure to place the most important parts in the center of the image.

recycle content onto other platforms

If you cross-post the same content, take care of which is supposed to be the original (preferably a blog hosted on your own domain), and add canonical tags pointing to the original post when re-posting on DEV, medium, Tealfeed etc. That option is often hidden deep inside expert settings and it's supposed to tell Google which content to favor, and which one to hide as duplicate content. Note that this doesn't always work in the intended way which is why some people had to stop (re-)posting on medium. Read Stéphanie Walter's reason for removing her content from medium.

Heart, unicorn and bookmark your own article and leave a comment on it the second your publish.

Not a "dirty secret" but another practical tip. It's legitimate, otherwise you wouldn't be able to do it. You can't upvote your own StackOverflow answers, but you can like your own DEV posts and tweets!

  1. Tags matter...

Another useful tip, especially using #webdev as a fallback. I regularly get overwhelmed by the number of possible tags. Some popular ones seem to have strict rules when to use, some have questionable descriptions (like #php') and some others seem to be relatively unpopular (like#a11y`) but the latter one is also chance to get noticed inside a "niche" building up popularity and authority for "long tail" (special interest) search terms.

you can't blame DEV for your own failings

But we can, and should, blame the current tech community for "our" (collective) failings, one of them being the technophile ableist dude culture mostly ignoring accessibility, diversity, ecology, inclusion, or more generally speaking having at least a little bit of decency and open-mindedness concerning our society, our world, our future, and the world we are creating for our children!

(Now it's time for my final rant, hopefully the moderators will have stopped reading before reaching this part. As I write this, Russian soldiers are attacking Ukraine, even the capital Kyiv and the city of Lviv, which is so far west, it feels like they could drop bombs on Krakow, Vienna, or Berlin as well. Corrupt western politicians make business with Russian oligarchs so they stop the EU plans to impose harder sanctions on Russia. I am so ashamed to be German, not for the first time. My grandfathers were soldiers, one died in a Soviet prison, the other managed to flee the Russian bombs and take our family as far west as possible. Now we're here and someday the Russians will bomb us again. In World War II at least we deserved it.)

That being said, don't blame DEV for anything. The practival DEV offers a platform that allows us to share ideas and knowledge, providing tools aimed at developers (markup editor with codepen integration and proper syntax highlighting for various programming languages) with an open-minded, inclusive, and welcoming approach unlike StackOverflow's gatekeeping snobbism or medium's arbitrariness.

No it is my fault.

It isn't. Your modesty credits you, but don't exaggerate.
Just because something isn't DEV's fault, it doesn't necessarily mean it's your fault or mine, see my rant above. There is a lot wrong with our society and our tech community, and as privileged people that do get a voice (at least on a small scale) it's also our responsibility to criticize and aim for a change (like you do).

To anyone who bothered to read to the end: don't let anything discourage you, don't get frustrated, if you have something to say, say it!
DEV is one place where we can have a say as techs, and INHU's tips can help us to do it in a way that might attract some additional audience as well.

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InHuOfficial Author

OK so now I see why you wanted to come back to this, that is without doubt one of the most epic comments I have read.

Brutal honesty is that I have read it but I probably won't be able to respond with anywhere near as much vigour until next week!

The few bits that I will quickly mention I will certainly come back to:

  • the bit "not for mods"...as a poorly educated (when it comes to other Countries perspectives on things) Brit I really want to read into this more as it is far too easy to just take what we are fed at face value and it being the "truth" and I certainly need to broaden my understanding of what is outside my little bubble.
  • The point on conversational style - you have a great point there as I wrote that without thinking about tutorials, how to's etc. It is content-type specific and certainly an oversight on my part. I would love to explore that more.
  • Sounds credible, but could you possible quote a source? Not directly in terms of content creation, but I am sure I can find an interesting study I read ages ago on pattern recognition and how amazing we are at actually processing patterns in events without active thought.

Probably about 10 other really interesting talking points once I really think about it rather than just reading it.

So much to unpack here, but I will certainly find the time as soon as possible to give you the response this comment deserves (and nudge me if I forget, there really are some interesting things here I would love to chat about)! ❤

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Renan Franca • Edited on

Thank you for sharing your opinion! 👏

Like animated GIFs, some kind of conversational style makes me cringe, like:
Hey y'all, how are you all doing, guys? As we all know, React is the greatest JavaScript framework. So today we want to build something that will blow you away!"

When I read something like this I am entering dynamic read mode desperate to find when its end 🤣

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mindplay profile image
Rasmus Schultz

I think maybe you've misunderstood me.

I'm not looking to become popular or gain followers. I only occasionally write, if I think I've come across something that would be really useful to others. When I do write, I put a lot of effort into it - if it's not clear and helpful, there's no point in writing in the first place.

The frustration in my rant (post) is about the same thing you just confirmed in this post: the fact that content does not subsist on it's own merit.

You have to actively curate your "brand", you have to strategically manipulate the "market" to get a word in.

I have zero interest in any of that. If my content was posted completely anonymously, but actually found the readers and helped them - if I never got any recognition for my work at all - I would be perfectly happy.

My only motivation and interest in writing is getting good ideas out there - my only hope is that maybe I can help make our line of work a little more enjoyable and interesting.

So, thanks, but I wasn't looking for a media strategy or a business plan.

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InHuOfficial Author • Edited on

I think I understood, I think perhaps I didn't express my agreement as much as I should of though.

Your key point "content does not subsist on it's own merit" is exactly the point I was trying to help people with. It would be amazing if that wasn't the case, but we don't control the game so we have to play along if we want the cream to rise to the top!

Your article was a catalyst for sharing my thoughts on how to grow, not whether that is appropriate for everyone (and that is a key point I really did express poorly / not explain well in the article).

It is a "you can't have your cake and eat it" type of scenario that I wish wasn't the case. Thousands of quality pieces do get buried under an avalanche of pandering listicles. I share all of your frustrations.

All my piece was meant to do (and I can see from the comments I failed in some ways) was highlight that we can't change the game on our own, neither can we place the blame on DEV for what people want to engage with, and give people a path to actually achieve growth for their work in a crowded place.

Instead we have to make a choice, play the game so we can get quality content in front of more eyeballs and put up with the fact that pandering is a part of growing to a point where we do have a voice and a way to get that quality content to "cut through the noise". Or we can just keep releasing things we believe have value and hope that we get lucky that someone who has played the game boosts our work.

Is it ideal? Nope! Would it be great if content was popular based on quality and merit? Absolutely!

Hopefully that clears up the bits that I did not make clear, at the end of the day the only outcome I really care about is that you continue to write the things you want to write about and if they don't get popular that it doesn't leave you frustrated to the point where you don't want to write anymore.

And from a personal perspective, your rant was useful for me, I may not have expressed myself well, but it is helping me formulate the points I made into a more succinct and well explained system that new writers can follow if they wish for growth and to build a platform for themselves.

So I consider that mission accomplished and am glad you shared the article, hopefully I continue to see your writing on the site and thank you for taking the time to come and comment, I hope we can have some engaging conversations about the topic...who knows we might come up with a solve for this seemingly impossible problem and finally "have our cake"! 😁

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Toby Parent

This kind of makes me think of good old "Appleseed John," an American folk tale based in truth. In the early days of the American frontier, John Chapman started wandering along that frontier and beyond, finding areas where farms might be and planting apple seeds so folks might, when they finally got there, have fruits they knew waiting for them. He spent years doing that, and he's considered by many a folk hero for it.

But I've often wondered if he came back by years later, and saw his beloved apple trees being used for firewood.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to give to your fellow man, I applaud the intent and the sentiment. But if that is the case, if you're not "tending your garden," then is it a reasonable expectation that someone else should tend it for you?

My articles are nothing special, they're things of interest to me and to a very small group of like-minded nerds. But I am constantly working and reworking them, revisiting based on conversations, having follow-up articles based on those conversations, trying to "tend my garden". Not from a desire to build a brand, but because if I'm writing this stuff, I'm probably the one best able to curate the stuff. It isn't really reasonable to think that someone who doesn't have some sort of investment (even an intellectual or emotional one) will do that for me.

I get having zero interest in building a brand, I get not giving a rat's patootie about "strategically manipulating" anything. But from what I've seen, if I'm are interested in building awareness of the ideas I'm putting out there, I'm going to have to put in the work of consistently, regularly cultivating those ideas.

It bugs the crap out of me that I'm not getting more comments on my articles, but I do get feedback from folks who have read them elsewhere (notably, on a few discord groups). So I do have some idea of what's going on and how my ideas are hitting, but I do agree - I wish I could figure some way of increasing engagement and conversations, the way this thread has.

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InHuOfficial Author • Edited on

I love that story, it is a beautiful reminder to leave something for others in the future, to work towards bettering things long term (I like the short version which is "plant trees in whose shade you know you shall never sit").

Also the way you put the part about tending your garden and expectations that others should maintain it for you is a great analogy.

So I think what I have gathered from this thread is that there is a huge gap in the market for heavy duty agricultural equipment. Machines that mean we can tend to our fields with less effort and with greater yields.

We probably also need a farmers market so that we can sell our high quality produce without having to resort to adverts in the paper and signs by the side of the road.

OK, I think I have done the analogies to death there, but the core principles are there...there is a gap for quality content to be put in one place.

I suppose though, if you think about it from that perspective, the answer would be to build a site that is pure high quality content with a central marketing team and reputation.

We kind of have that with sites like CSS tricks, smashing magazine etc. so perhaps just an improved version of them that is half way between full editorial and a free to post what you like site is the answer.

So taking that to a (very long-winded) conclusion, perhaps the advice for people who want to write high quality pieces but not have tend their garden, for people who do not want to write regularly and aren't bothered about building a personal reputation that much, but instead sharing their valuable insights is to submit them to sites that pay for articles, or sites that curate high quality content and accept the trade-offs that entails?

I feel like I am just a couple of steps a way from a "how should you create and promote content" flowchart / decision tree at this stage 🤣

Loving all the ideas this article's comments section has within it, and the beautiful ways in which people have expressed themselves, such as in your comments Toby!

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parenttobias profile image
Toby Parent

In the not-too-distant past, I worked as a landscape crew foreman, ran a crew of guys handling care and maintenance. We had a number of folks who didn't want to have to work at their lawns and garden beds, but they wanted the pleasure of looking at them.

So it comes down to this, regardless of field: you will always invest something. You might invest your time and effort, or you might invest your money in other people's time and effort. If I want to get my word out there, I can keep promoting and hyping and selling myself, or I can affiliate or use someone else to do that for me.

I have tried to be fairly consistent and complete in the kind of writing I do, and I have to say that being accountable to my better half has helped tremendously. She helps keep me on task, writing new things, and helping spread the word. Just recently, on another article site to which I cross-post, a developer magazine asked if I'd consider listing my articles under their publication. Had to think about that one a bit.

But if I do, I still own my articles, my words are still my own, they are simply being affiliated with that ezine. Their editors review my stuff, correct typos, improve my SEO and help promote for me. I'm still working at it, I'm still doing the writing and responding thing, but I'm able to focus on the parts I want to do - because I remained constant and consistent in my message, and my delivery.

I don't like to market, I don't like to hype myself or talk about myself or being the center of attention like that. But I love teaching and sharing and writing. And by consistently regularly doing the things I love to do, I'm slowly starting to reap those rewards.

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Nathan Kallman

I still remember seeing your rise and wondering "who is this commenting on everyone's articles?" It seems to be working!

What I've realized is there are a few different types of articles that have very different "success" measurements:

  1. Feed articles: what most people think they want to write when they start writing, show up in the feed, get a bunch of views and some engagement, then it all stops and you're on to the next post (after all, these are the articles they're reading and are inspired to start writing by)
  2. Google-able articles: these do not "succeed" if you measure them like a feed article. They never "go viral"; instead they get a small drip of traffic for long periods of time.
  3. Personal articulations: articles that aren't findable or clickable, but when a colleague asks "how do you feel about testing?" Or whatever else, I send them a link and say "this". A long-form, well-researched argument of my findings and experience to date.

I decided I don't want to write feed articles: I'm terrible at them, dislike reading them, and don't mind missing the "popularity" they bring. So I stopped measuring my "success" by feed article standards and I'm much happier. I have a few Google-able articles that I'm incredibly proud of their success (consistently first page for several search terms) and I have a litany of personal articulations that I've shared with colleagues and has been helpful in my professional communication.

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InHuOfficial Author

I really like this categorisation! I am going to steal it, adapt it and add to it I like it that much!

I like the "google-able" articles, what us old dogs call SEO'd articles 😉

But being serious for a second, articles that rank well for popular terms are, in my opinion, the best articles overall, especially "evergreen" articles that just feed consistent engagement over months and years. They are what we should hope to have at least 25% of our articles be one day.

You certainly should be proud of any article that fits into this category and ranks well for key terms, it takes skill and effort and I certainly applaud it! ❤

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mellen profile image
Matt Ellen

I think it boils down to: you can write what you want to write or you can write what people want to read. If you're lucky then they overlap.

Dev.to is a place for all developers, so if you're writing specialised stuff, you're not going to get a lot of views. If you can't crank out a lot of articles, you won't get a lot of views.

There's no magic sauce, people are just people. BASIC is as BASIC does ;)

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InHuOfficial Author

My whole rambling article summarised in just 2 paragraphs! 😁

The key bit is "balance", that is why I suggested the "one for them, one for you" method, growth with substance is the aim!

There's no magic sauce, people are just people.

But this is the bit that often gets missed, people are complex as individuals, but as a crowd we are still dumb irrational beings. I would argues there is a magic sauce...you need to understand crowd mentality and the overall population for the overall strategy and the understand the individual for how you interact with them and your tone of voice etc.

Amazing comment, honestly this whole comment section has just blown my mind with some of the insights!

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mellen profile image
Matt Ellen

I think the thing I underestimate, that you mentioned, is interacting with people. If you want to keep people coming back it helps to make them feel welcome.

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial Author

It is more than that, engaged readers are 100 times more valuable than passers by. Engaged readers are where the job opportunities, friendships, repeat readers and advocates come from.

I think it all boils down to how you look at the relationship.

I view it as a privilege if someone takes the time to read and then comment on my writing (time is valuable), so I will give them the time and respond whenever I can as it is just good manners!

So I suppose at this point I should say thank you for reading and commenting 😁

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mellen profile image
Matt Ellen

😁 you're welcome. Thanks for the post.

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

if you aren't growing it is your fault

I'm only going to drive-by comment here to talk about phrasing. A lot of articles here make the same assumption - that users of the site are only reading it because they want to have lots of numbers next to their names.

I'm not here for that, and I'm sure I'm not alone. I throw occasional articles at the wall and some of them stick. I sometimes put in more effort, and I sometimes get reactions. But I don't see it as a failure when I don't: I'm not trying to build a brand, make new friends or launch my career as a Typescript influencer.

You might say, "that's fine, in that case this article isn't for you"; I say using words like, "fault" for people who don't have a lot of magic Internet points is part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial Author

There are a lot of things in this article that I think I could have prefaced better and there are key points where I address stuff (but it is a massive article).

However I think I can stand by what I said with some confidence (but I certainly am considering how I can improve the message).

But, with all that being said, there is a key factor that is less tangible: does asking questions and creating listicles help your "personal brand", does it help build up your authority in a subject? Probably not.

Long term, that personal brand value does start to add up and results in opportunities and meaningful conversations. If that is what you really want from your writing then focus on that and ignore the numbers.

I know it is 2 paragraphs in a gigantic article but that is certainly right for people who write for enjoyment. But at that point you aren't bothered about growth so much.

I will stand by "fault" as it is your fault if you don't grow, but I certainly cover that as "it isn't necessarily a bad thing" in several places. In fact I end with it...

In summary: if you aren't growing it is your fault, it is down to choices you make. That is not saying those choices are bad, but you certainly need to put in the effort and adjust your content creation if views and growth are your primary concern. Once you reach a certain size, pivot to writing more and more content you want to see, you should hopefully have the community around you at that point to support it!

As for blame, I take the blame for the poor structure of this article meaning some of the message I was trying to make is being lost! It is a lesson in practicing what you preach and I wrote this article on a whim and without structuring it first.

Hopefully there is still enough value in the rest of the article that you still enjoyed it though ❤

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

I always enjoy your articles :)

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elijahtrillionz profile image
Elijah Trillionz • Edited on

With my time here on Dev, I must say I have experienced different situations.

I completely agree with you on consistency. I have not been a lot consistent and that has affected my traffic from Google feeds.

Also about commenting, I really don't do it 😁. But after reading this, I made up my mind to start engaging with other articles. I basically had to force myself to comment right now. Especially for the purpose of encouraging and interacting.

Just a little tip on quality based on my experience: writing quality contents really depend on your understanding of that topic.

I remembered in my first article, I recieved a hot slap in the face to welcome me to the community. I knew about the topic, I had done a little bit of research but I didn't really understand it. But that was the last time.
When I wanted to write on Aligning elements to the center in CSS, even though I was solid in it to a great exten, I had to practice for more than a week on aligning items to the center; just to be sure I understood it. 😁

And here is another tip on traffic: Google feed/Google.com is a cheatsheet. My last two articles didn't receive any traffic from google feeds because I basically disappeared and appeared again, and so I was already tossed down from the headlines of my reader's (not DEV followers) feeds. But the last one that got traffic from google feeds generated over 45% of the traffic (out of 38k+).

And as much as I would not encourage anyone to write because of Google trends, I'd also suggest you optimize for search engines as well. Now that you have a topic, just use SEO tools to check out your competitions, keyword ideas, optimize the title, cover (as you mentioned)

My article on learning react still gets more than 100 views from google.com every week. That's crazy. Honestly, I'd say just take advantage of the domain authority of DEV.

Thanks for this awesome article. I would never have written a comment this long. Like never 😂

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InHuOfficial Author

Then I believe my article has at least done some good in the world if it encouraged you to engage...and I am so glad you did as you raise some interesting points (and I learn so much more from the comments than people realise!)

The one thing I will say is the quality based on understanding...you are right, but there are things you can do.

Lets say you are just learning about flexbox and aren't so sure of yourself. Then write an article that is not claiming to be an authority piece, but instead starts with a "this is what I have learned, please correct me" type intro. You will find that the comments will fill in your gaps in knowledge very quickly (as you found out!).

The "hot slap in the face" you received (I liked that expression lol) is a good thing though and that is the other thing that is hard to consume as an author. Every single snarky comment that points out a mistake is an opportunity to learn, you just have to learn (and it is difficult) to zone out the mean or negative parts and focus on opportunities to learn! It is hard though, nobody can zone it all out! 🤣

Also there is another thing you have done in your comment that people are afraid to do because "they might appear pushy". You shared your work that is appropriate to the conversation. It isn't forced, it isn't an attempt to just grab views, it adds value! Many people are scared of doing that, don't be, any author who gets angry at someone sharing something appropriate in the comments has completely missed the point.

Thanks for the comment and I am so glad it has encouraged you to comment more, that really does warm my heart! ❤

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Elijah Trillionz • Edited on

Yeah, I totally agree with you on writing to learn more. Even someone who is very good in something can still learn from other people. I feel like everybody's understanding/experience is different and sharing makes it a perfect combo for all.

Thanks a lot for your kind words.

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leob • Edited on

Good points, words of the wise, but in my opinion dev.to should be putting more effort into pushing down the repetitive low quality content (listicles and all that) and promoting high quality. But then again who am I - maybe that would simply not be in dev.to's interest, if "listicles" is really what The People want.

So in fact what we can conclude is, if you really want to be "popular" on dev.to then you might have to make concessions. I'm not willing to make those, so I simply accept that I'm not popular ;)

(funny analogy - it just occurred to me that dev.to has evolved a bit into "the Instagram of the developer world" - looks matter more than content)

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InHuOfficial Author

I certainly agree that it would be great to promote higher quality articles, but the “how” is the bit that is very difficult without manual intervention.

Maybe some clever machine learning / sentiment analysis / post analysis could do this in the near future but as with anything in that sphere, the second you give a black box a set of rules it becomes difficult to control (look at Google, it doesn’t work well anymore for complex queries as it has self optimised for the 90% and the engagement vs quality problem DEV has is similar, hell we could write a whole thesis on trying to solve it!)

The team at DEV are running experiments to try and fix the problem, but it is a very tough problem to crack, so that is why I suggest “playing the game” a little!

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leob

Right, but the question is if they even WANT to change it - many people simply like the listicles and the other dumbed down content. But, I do respect the people at dev.to, and I do believe they do want to promote better content more - I think they also see that if it's all getting too much dumbed down, then part of the audience will jump ship or simply check out (engage less).

And yeah I understand you, sometimes you have to be practical and play "their" game ... if you can't beat them then join them, lol.

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m0nm

Thanks for the advices, I don't have anything to add since i'm still new but the point you talked about Tiktok and the rise of the short-content is what i felt from most or some people in this platform, That's why you find short-content posts are more dominant then the long and detailed ones, So i kind of know why somebody would argue that it's hard to grow or even not worth it

For me i'm not trying to be famous but i would want me a handful of followers so someday an employer would say "Hey this guy is part of a community! Lets hire him" (lol)

Again thanks for the tips will definitely try the "dirty" one haha

PS: just a quick question do you schedule your posts or do you post them as soon as you finish ?

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InHuOfficial Author • Edited on

PS: just a quick question do you schedule your posts or do you post them as soon as you finish ?

In the past I always just posted when I was done (I wrote for fun).

However my focus has changed so I will be posting on a schedule to take advantage of "peak times" for posting as I want to maximise engagement and get as many eyeballs as possible for the same amount of effort.

And as for not having anything to add as you are new, you added several interesting points and asked a good question, you added plenty!

Based on what you said (not trying to be famous but as a way to improve your hiring chances) a few mini-tips:

  1. Stay clear of anything that is a "powder keg" such as race, religion, politics etc. You may end up hurting your chances if someone who is hiring disagrees with your views.
  2. Write about languages, frameworks and topics that you want to work with in your work to establish credibility.
  3. Try and showcase problem solving abilities - write posts with code examples and explain how you approached the problem, it may feel like you are "over explaining" but being able to see your thought process can really help an employer see your value.
  4. Connect with people. Split your time 50% on writing and 50% on interacting with others in the industry and spaces you want to work in. The connections are the most important part of your strategy so get to know people and take genuine interest in what they do, opportunities will just start presenting themselves after that!

Hell I could probably write a post just on this subject (another reason why your comment was super valuable, it may have inspired a future post of mine so thank you!)

Additionally I have an extreme example of content creation to employment. I don't know if you currently have a job or what stage you are in your career so this may not be relevant...but this is a "zero knowledge, just started coding to hired in 6 months" strategy that is a bit extreme but certainly the path I would take if I was brand new:

  1. Put 30+ hours a week aside for content creation and blitz it, share things that you are learning (public learning is going to be massive in 2022 and beyond), tips, tricks and cheat sheets, interact with others, become an epic creator.
  2. Use Twitter and really put effort into growing there, sharing your content, creating useful twitter threads, commenting and retweeting etc. Join Twitter spaces and volunteer to talk, it is a great way to improve your public speaking and reduce any fears of speaking in public. It is also a great way to connect with industry leaders.
  3. Apply for a developer advocate role (or wait for them to come to you) once you hit about 25k+ followers on Twitter and about 50 pieces of content under your belt.
  4. PROFIT! Get a decent starting salary and your foot in the door, you can always move sideways into a developer role when it becomes available if that is what you want (but most people love dev advocate roles).

That may seem like I am joking, I am not (although I have certainly over-simplified it!). People have gone from nothing to mid 5 figures in less than 6 months doing this. 5 years ago I would have laughed if someone suggested this, today I truly believe this is one of the quickest paths into tech and a strong foundation for growth.

I cannot think of a path into tech that is quicker than that and will also result in a decent salary. Plus you then get to spend your days growing your following (as well as that of your employer) while working as a dev advocate, so you are essentially getting paid to grow your own network and open up even more opportunities!

There is an old adage "it isn't what you know, it is who you know" and content creation is a great way to get to know people worth knowing!

Obviously there are 200 steps in the middle of that, research to do, improving your skills through consistent effort and creating that much content is hard work, but it can be done along side a normal 9-5 if you want it enough!

Anyway, I might have "over cooked" this response, but as an old dog the rise of dev advocates and that path into tech in the last few years has really blown my mind and I wish that opportunity existed when I was starting out!

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m0nm

Very informative and genuine response, thanks from heart

my focus has changed so I will be posting on a schedule to take advantage of "peak times"

curious about those peak times, When do you exactly post if i may ask ?

I don't know if you currently have a job or what stage you are in your career

I'm still learning :)

Use Twitter and really put effort into growing there,

twitter is a bit weird for me but i know its where the devs lives so i will start tweeting once i write a couple good posts

People have gone from nothing to mid 5 figures in less than 6 months doing this.

Well that just impressive! do you know anybody who's active on the internet ? Would like to check them out

I might have "over cooked" this response

Definitely not at all, Thanks again for putting the time onto this

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial Author • Edited on

Here is an old analysis of the times (third table at the bottom) that get the most reactions. It needs updating but that is 250,000 live articles on DEV up to about 6 months ago (and yes I did download every single one of them so I have over 10GB of article markdown sat in a database 🤣)!

inhu.co/dev_to/analyse/timeofday.php

Twitter is a strange place but once you "get it" it really is just spewing your thoughts on what you are learning out and sharing useful tips and tricks (plus some of your personality).

If you want a prime example of someone who has done exactly what I said: twitter.com/codingyuri

She has a unique style but she threw everything she had at Twitter and content creation for 6 months while learning. Check her join date and then check out what jobs she currently does, dev advocate, web3 editor at hashnode. I wouldn't set my expectations quite that high but certainly worth following that path and taking ideas from her.

I think she is the single best example, but there are plenty of others!

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Jan Küster

I would most focus on why you write. If you want to write for the views, well do the "listicles" but don't expect to grow in skills but only in views and followers. And trust me views and followers won't bring you contract requests or job offers.

If you write articles to show off your skills or to validate what you have learned (if you can explain it you have definitely learned it) then you can expect to become recognized for what you have done one day.

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InHuOfficial Author

Yup and the point (I am beginning I realise I made badly) was that as a new author you should deliberately write both for growth and for yourself. Once you have a base of followers you can pivot to pure high quality content.

Maybe that should have been the entire post as I certainly appear to have confused a lot of people 🤣

If you write articles to show off your skills or to validate what you have learned (if you can explain it you have definitely learned it) then you can expect to become recognized for what you have done one day.

Agree entirely and I think perhaps I need to embolden these two paragraphs as they are exactly that:

But, with all that being said, there is a key factor that is less tangible: does asking questions and creating listicles help your "personal brand", does it help build up your authority in a subject? Probably not.

Long term, that personal brand value does start to add up and results in opportunities and meaningful conversations. If that is what you really want from your writing then focus on that and ignore the numbers.

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Vincent A. Cicirello

Related to your number 4, commenting on posts definitely gains followers. I don't post often. Most recent post was in November. But I do comment more regularly. And I've noticed increase in followers when I'm commenting more often.

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InHuOfficial Author

Probably my favourite part of content creation is the comments. The comments on this article in particular have been a real gold mine of ideas and inspiration, much better than the article itself I have to admit 🤣.

Having had a quick look through your comments I can see why you got followers, you added value and essentially that is the whole point of content creation!

I hope you find the space / time / motivation to write more, i just skim read your article on the jacoco-badge-generator you developed and maintain and will read that properly when I get chance, but I just wanted to say that the documentation for the project is beautifully detailed and structured.

I consider that top quality content and have bookmarked that for future use as an example of how documentation should be done! ❤

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Vincent A. Cicirello

Thanks. The traffic data on that repository in relation to that dev post is interesting. It seems many find their way to that GitHub repo from dev, which I assume is from that post. Posting on dev can be useful in getting open source projects noticed.

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InHuOfficial Author • Edited on

See, I practice what I preach, a call to action (albeit a soft one), written in my own voice, i liked my own article and i left a comment on my own article.

Im a man of my word - Joker

Oh and go give Rasmus some love and affection please, we need more passionate writers!

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Raí B. Toffoletto

Just to let you know that your 101 A11y tips article was one of the best reads I had here and the reason you are one of the few I follow here. So keep doing one for them but don't forget the one for us! Those are great readings.

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InHuOfficial Author

Thanks so much, it really means a lot!

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Renan Franca • Edited on

Thank you @inhuofficial for sharing your interesting point of view! I am putting into practice what you shared here, I will give the feedback later in the future ✨✌

❤ and 🦄 for you! 😂

( I will ask for ❤ and 🦄 on my next post, It's like YouTubers asking for like and subscribe. I don't have any problem reading this kind of request 😊)

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Dylan Lacey

What I say to a lot of new writers / content creators is to work out how much content you think you can create in a week...then halve it!

Only halve it? ;P

I feel you on the "rant" portion of your article. I've had a constant debate with myself on whether to fight 'em or join 'em. If I choose to not engage with low-quality short-form content, and everyone else does the same, it'll go away, so providing higher quality alternatives should help right?

...As long as everyone else pitches in which is... unlikely. 1-for-you, 1-for-them seems like a good compromise.

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Adam Davis

Great post. I've been slowly coming to a lot of these same realizations.

One thing I want to add though is that sometimes low view counts may not be an issue of people not being interested in a topic, but instead that the people who are interested in that topic aren't on DEV.

My JavaScript posts get a decent amount of views on here, but anything I write about Elixir gets far fewer views (even if they sometimes end up getting more likes).

But recently I shared a link to one of my posts on elixirforum and it was picked up in some other places that gave it a lot of traffic on my website.

So while it's true that there are fewer people reading about Elixir than JavaScript, that wasn't my real problem. Rather, Elixir devs just seem to get their content from more niche sites.

I'm going to continue to publish my Elixir posts on DEV, but I don't expect it to constitute a majority of the traffic.

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InHuOfficial Author

One thing I want to add though is that sometimes low view counts may not be an issue of people not being interested in a topic, but instead that the people who are interested in that topic aren't on DEV.

A very important distinction that I really needed to "lean into" more, thanks for putting emphasis on that!

And another great point on putting your content where the audience is.

There isn't much I can add here, but I certainly realised I need to incorporate those two points into similar articles on the subject in the future! ❤

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Liu YongLiang

Reflecting on my own writing journey on Dev.to, the amount of post reaction/follower can certainly be a source of motivation(or the complete opposite). What I would remind myself of is this:
If I write to gain traction and I don’t get that, I should change the way I write/promote my post. If, however, I write to simply share something that I think it’s noteworthy, why should I be upset that the post does not get to a crazy level of reactions from readers? That’s not the goal of the post anyway.

I do see the value of having a voice on various platform but honestly, even though I don’t get that many “likes” when I click publish, I don’t have to worry about what I should write to please the crowd either:)

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InHuOfficial Author

Exactly.

I just find there is a balance to be made, there is nothing more soul destroying than sitting back after hitting publish and thinking "that is some of my best work" and then getting no interactions.

So although followers and views are not important as a "self worth" or "measure of your self worth" as some people see it, they are certainly important in terms of getting people to see your stuff, comment or react and then have the opportunity to engage with and build a relationship with them.

As you said the "goal" is important, I am just trying to persuade people that growth is a goal worth pursuing as we have all been fed the "follower numbers don't matter" rhetoric and it isn't quite that simple!

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Ingo Steinke

Always love your content. When I find time to properly read this long post, I want to reply in more detail where I agree and disagree and why. Trying to sum up my first impression after skimming: don't stop to write content! And if you're frustrated about not getting views and feedback, make an effort and try to change your strategy! Or don't bother, it's okay to write what you want, but don't expect that others share your interests.

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InHuOfficial Author

As always I look forward to your comment, they are always informative and I love hearing your opposing opinions when you have them (I like the ones that agree as well, but you know I am someone who likes people who challenge my opinion so we can have a good debate and learn from each other 😁)!

I will respond when I see your comment land, I hope you enjoy the article!

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Maddy

My problem with publishing every day is that it may not be sustainable in the long term.

Consistency doesn't have to mean publishing an article a day. Rather I'd say that it means to find a schedule that works for you and stick with it.

I think putting it this way may scary a lot of people, as the process of writing includes multiple steps.

Anyway thanks for this post! Very helpful. 😊

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InHuOfficial Author

Sorry where did I say to publish every day?

If I did that is a massive typo / mistake I want to fix ASAP as I certainly do not want to give people the impression they should write every day, I even warn against it when talking about Chris.

You are 100% right, nobody should feel pressure to write every day, it isn't maintainable long term and it will soon put a new (or even established) author off creating content and I don't want that.

If I even hint at that, or have phrased something badly that suggests that, I will correct it ASAP.

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Geneviève Masioni

This is the post that encouraged me to take a leap of faith and start blogging about AI. I joined Dev.to about 3 minutes ago and I'll start with one article every monday. I'll aim for quality quantity in the long run. Maybe I'll to put Chris Bongers to shame in a few months !

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InHuOfficial Author • Edited on

That means a lot to know this post helped you get going! ❤️

Now the hard part…shout into the void for a few articles! Trust me if you keep at it you will soon start seeing loads of great things happen!

I hope in a year or two you do manage to put Chris to shame! 💪🤣

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Alvaro Montoro

Grifting 101?

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InHuOfficial Author

“Calculated grifting for growth” is what I like to call it 😜🤣

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Alvaro Montoro

🤦

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Michael Andreuzza

I deleted an account with 5k followers hereon Dev... I had no traction what so ever after a while.

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InHuOfficial Author