This post originally appeared on Ascent.
Starting a software blog can feel out of reach to most. Without readers our time will be wasted, right?
Thousands of dollars. That is what blogging about software will make you, even if no human being ever reads your blog. Not hogwash. At first, readers may seem like the "goal" of blogging, but they are actually a natural result of it. Along the way will be plenty of other personal benefits, including better jobs.
Whoever said, "you do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother" never tried detailing their opinions to a text file.
The first thing you will notice when writing about software is just how incomplete our thoughts are. We are conceptual creatures and we think in abstract about software. Intuitively, we fill in those blanks in our mind.
In many ways our feelings about software are like dreams: they make sense when you are actively involved, but when you try to transcribe them, you notice holes everywhere. That is not to say they are unrealistic or contradictory. Just... incomplete.
Blogging forces you to take the time to fill in these blanks. Filling in the blanks forces you to think critically about your own opinions. The result of these activities is a far deeper understanding about topics you previously considered yourself informed enough to write about. This manifests externally, too. You will find yourself speaking with more perspective and confidence about topics even tangentially related to your blog posts.
There are two ways to communicate an opinion: from your point of view or from the point of view of the person you are communicating with. The first is easy but useless. Remember those college professors who were clearly brilliant yet no one could understand them? They were not teaching from the point of view of their students. As a result, their brilliance was lost on their audience.
As domain experts in our own right, we should be afraid of this. We are not protected by some software tenure. People take the time reading blogs to learn new ideas, expand their perspectives and keep up to date with the ebbs and flows of technology. Learning to communicate your ideas effectively to any audience is a crucial part of making your opinions approachable. It also makes you a better communicator.
My spoken communication skills have improved since I started blogging. Not because I have learned to "dumb things down". You learn to pay attention to which details are applicable and which are not. You learn to explain concepts from the mindset of the audience. It changes how coworkers and even clients perceive your command of the topics.
One thing I assumed about bloggers is that they know their shit. I mean, they must. They have a blog with hundreds of posts. That doesn't just... happen.
But it does just... happen. And people who blog a bunch do know their shit. Cause and effect plays a role here, though.
People don't start blogging because they passed a test and got a membership card allowing them to do so. Bloggers appear to know their shit so well because they have benefitted from the above points. The more you blog the more you fill in the gaps in your understanding and become at communicating.
Armed with better understanding and communication skills, client relations improve. You are more valuable asset to your team. Interviews seem to get easier. Being able to point people in the direction of your blog skips a lot of the credential questions that so often plague tech interviews. Better understanding, more valuable employee. More valuable, better job. Better job, more pay. It's a beautiful thing.
To the uninitiated, blogging feels like a nonstarter because you will have no readers. Little do people know, readers are the motivational fuel the drives the blog. They are the gas in the car, not the destination we are driving to.
I will do another post on the steps to getting readers and setting up a blog. To those eager (good for you!), I will point you to Ghost and some free themes for it. It is free, open sourced, runs on Markdown, and has excellent documentation for getting it up an running.
In fact, I have liked Ghost so much that i've even started installing it for clients who need blogging platforms.
I suppose that is another benefit to blogging. They just keep on coming.
tl;dr: Blogging has valuable lessons long before you get your first readers or ad revenues. These are some of the most important ones.