The following is adapted from my lightning talk “Blogging Outside the Bubble” at last week’s Perl and Raku Conference in the Cloud 2021. You can watch the presentation and download the slides here. Also, a tip: most of this applies to anyone who wants to start a blog.
Let’s say you’re a Perl developer distraught at the continued decline in usage and mindshare of your favorite language.
You know that you do good work and that your tools and techniques are sound, but the world outside of Perl-specific forums, software archives, social media groups, and IRC channels regards it as antiquated, out-of-date, or worse, that IT epithet legacy. (And the newer developers haven’t even heard of IRC!)
Let’s say you’re worried about your professional prospects both at your current employer and with possible future employers. Even though you know or can easily be trained in other languages, Perl is still your favorite.
Let’s say you’re me.
What do you do?
There are two basic types of blogs: standardized format and customizable. If you’re just starting and you want to spend more time writing and less time fiddling with templates and software, choose standardized. Here are some sites that enable you to publish your work while getting out of your way and that have developer-centric communities. Pick one and set up an account:
If you want more customization options, you could try:
- WordPress.com (hosted, but lets you change some things around)
- GitHub Pages (good if you’re already used to collaborative software development there, but requires more setup including blog generation software)
- Or your preferred hosting provider—look for ready-to-go blogging apps like WordPress
And yes, the WordPress software is based on PHP. Don’t sweat that it’s not Perl. PHP doesn’t have to “lose” for Perl to “win.”
Finding a topic to write about can seem hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The Perl (and Raku) Weekly Challenge publishes two new programming challenges every week. Work on those and publish your solution along with commentary.
Coming up with a pithy title for your posts may be harder—you want to be clickbait-y but honest, and you want to mention Perl so that search engines associate your posts with the topic.
The important thing to do is write something. And length doesn’t matter; one or two paragraphs is fine.
Here’s the bad news: no one is going to find your blog posts on their own. You need to put them in front of readers where they already are.
This means posting links on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. It means discussion groups and #hashtags (like
#webdev, etc.) on those social networks. It means news forums like Reddit and Hacker News. And it means posting inside and outside of Perl-specific groups. Here are a couple of examples of the latter:
- LinkedIn FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) Professionals
- Reddit r/coding, r/programming, r/webdev
This social promotion might get tedious after a while, so look into plugins for your blogging platform and services like IFTTT and Zapier that will monitor your blog’s news feed and automatically post on your behalf.
Also, remember when I said above that there were blogging sites with developer-centric communities? Even if your main blog isn’t on one of them, set up accounts and cross-post. I repost my articles on Dev.to, DZone, and Medium; all of these offer ways to import posts from your main site. One caveat: their importers don’t seem to be very smart when it comes to source code, so you may need to do a bit of editing and reformatting after import.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Perl Weekly newsletter. Every Monday a fresh batch of Perl content is sent to people’s inboxes and you could be part of it. Contact editor Gábor Szabó about publishing links to your new blog.
Remember that consistency builds trust from your audience. Make time to write regularly and publish posts as often as you can manage. I set a goal to publish at least once a week and have kept up this pace since January of this year. You can often find new topics as you monitor and participate in the social forums in which you’re promoting your blog, especially in the comments. Even negative comments can drive new topics.
Did this article inspire you to start a blog? Do you have more questions? Let me know in the comments below!