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Tech Elevator

Blogging Your Learn to Code Journey

integerman profile image Matt Eland ・9 min read

As someone whose career trajectory was altered by my own writing, I thought I would share the wisdom I learned in writing on software development topics and include some concrete ways to get started with my favorite platform for technical blogging: dev.to.

This article will teach you:

  • Why dev.to is my recommended platform
  • What to write about (and how frequently to write it)
  • How to use dev.to to write and publish your first piece
  • How to promote your piece in a meaningful way

Let's get started!

Note: this article was written at the request of our students at Tech Elevator. While this content is relevant to all, some of this content is more tailored towards bootcamp students or those looking for their first job

Getting Started

Why Write?

As a new developer, there are a number of compelling reasons to write about your journey:

  • It helps you stay motivated
  • It helps others learn from your experience
  • It builds your own "brand" as a developer and part of the community
  • It can attract the attention of hiring partners and third parties who would like to do one-off work with you
  • It can force you to learn new things
  • People's responses can teach you new things
  • Your articles hang around for a long time after you've written them, helping people even years down the road

Choosing a Platform

When I first started writing technical articles, I picked Medium as my writing platform. It made sense at the time - Medium was well known, had an easy to use and intuitive editor, and it just felt very polished.

Every day for a week I would write an article on Medium, Publish it, and go about my day.

But nothing happened. Nobody saw anything I'd written, which was a shame given the effort I'd put into it.

Then, a member of the community I'm connected with on LinkedIn suggested Dev.to, and it changed the way I wrote going forward.

What is Dev.to?

Dev.to (which stands for Dev Together), is a blogging site devoted to people trying to learn to code and learn new things together. Unlike other platforms, Dev.to's leadership is focused on growing a community together, promoting and elevating its members, and sharing the very best content with all.

Contrast this to Medium where in order for your article to be read, you need to either already have a following or Medium or some other publication within Medium has to choose to promote your pieces.

With Dev.to you get a lot of community support, suggestions, and constant encouragement - plus the occasional free plugs for your content if the quality is good enough.

Dev.to is a free platform and my number one recommended starting point for new development bloggers.

Create an Account

Presently, you can sign in to Dev.to with either your GitHub account or your Twitter account (or both). Both accounts are things I strongly recommend you have if you want to be active in the online technical community.

Go to https://dev.to/new to get started connecting your accounts and logging in for the first time.

Join Dev.to

Configuring your Account

Once you have an account, click on your profile in the header and choose "Settings".

From there, I recommend entering in as much information as you'd like on the Profile page - particularly location, Twitter handle, and open to work status.

Next, click on UX in the sidebar. From here you can change the site theme to your choosing and any font preferences you have.

Please also make sure that your editor version is "Rich + markdown" as this will ensure that the screenshots and instructions I share match your own experience.

Setting Rich + Markdown

Writing your First Article

Determine When to Write

Now that you have your account, you need to start thinking about what you're going to write and how frequently.

For frequency, I'd recommend starting with a post every other week or every month as an initial expectation. This is particularly relevant if you are a Tech Elevator student reading this guide, as our 14 week program is fairly intense and you want to reduce other commitments while undertaking that program.

Once you get into the flow of writing articles, if you want to increase your frequency, go for it, but my general advice is to not go more frequently than twice a week.

Picking a Topic

As far as what to write about, if you're a newer developer or someone learning to code, I recommend writing about your journey.

Specifically, you can write about:

  • What about your unique background helps you as a programmer
  • What the hardest parts of learning programming are for you
  • What "mental tricks" you learned to help learn new concepts
  • What you want to build with technology, once you've learned enough and built up enough skill
  • The things about the journey that frustrate you and what you're doing about them
  • That side project you're working on
  • How you see your own code and approaches to programming improving over time
  • That new library, tool, or technique you just learned about and how it changed your mindset as a new developer

Yes, most things you can choose to write about someone has already written about, but it turns out that this is just fine. You offer your own unique voice at your own unique time.

Trust me, offer your voice and someone will find it useful.

Writing an Article on Dev.to

To get started, click the big "Write a post" button in Dev.to's header.

This should take you to a very minimal page where you can set the post title, add some tags, write some content, and upload some images.

Blank Editor

Choosing a Title

Titles should be brief and informative and tell the reader all they need to know for if they'd like to read your content. A good title for a new developer post might be "From Mechanic to Code Monkey", "Seriously? JavaScript Really Works this Way?", or "Have Semi-Colons, Will Travel".

Have some fun with it, but keep in mind that the more you write, the more you'll learn how to write catchy titles.

Choosing the Appropriate Tags

Next, it's critically important to add some tags to your post. Tags are essentially buckets of related content. This article is tagged as:

  • Beginners
  • Tutorial
  • Writing
  • Career

People looking for ways of getting started in things can find this article by looking in Beginners or Tutorial and people looking for advice on Writing or Careers will similarly be able to find it.

For you, the tags you'll use will depend heavily on the technologies you're talking about and the code you're sharing, but I do recommend using the maximum of 4 tags - as long as they make sense to use in the context of your article.

I recommend checking out the Tags Page for a list of popular tags. This is also a good place to follow tags that interest you in order to see articles about them in Dev.to's main feed.

Outlining your Article

Next, you'll want to outline your article by going into the content area and adding in a few # My Header and ## My Sub-Header markdown statements with various section headers. This helps you lay down your structure and flow before you start writing your content.

If you're confused on markdown, check out the Markdown help link on Dev.to's sidebar or click the Preview button at the top to preview your article without publishing it.

Using Markdown Effectively

You can also use markdown like *bold* and **italics** to make things bold and italics or surround things with the backtick character ` (the key to the left of the 1 on most keyboards) to format inline code // like this.

Formatting your Code

For longer code snippets, you'll want to use Dev.to's integrated code formatting.

Start a line with 3 backtick characters in a row, then paste your code below that. Finally, close things up with 3 more backticks. Your markdown should look something like this:

Dev.to Markdown

Dev.to will now format your code block:

public class You : Author
{
   public Article Write()
   {
      return new Article("Something Awesome");
   }
}

You can actually get even better highlighting than this. You can use shorthand for programming language syntax when you start your opening triple backtick line. For example, I can type three backticks followed by cs on my opening block and then get some better formatting.

public class You : Author
{
   public Article Write()
   {
      return new Article("Something Awesome");
   }
}

Dev.to includes support for many many languages like this, but you may need to guess the shorthand for that language. I recommend trying a few different things and then previewing them to see if you get a good result.

Including Images

Frequently, you'll want to include images in your articles. This is helpful for keeping people engaged in your articles, breaking up text for readability, and showing off visual things like progress on side projects.

To include an image, you'll want to click the "Upload Image" button in the header of Dev.to's editor. From there, you can select an image from your machine and accept it.

Next, Dev.to uploads this to Amazon's S3 storage area and populates a text box next to the upload image button with markdown for the image you just created.

Image Bar

Click on the text box and it should copy the contents to your clipboard as a markdown statement. Paste that content into your article and when you preview it, the image should render properly.

One note, make sure you change the "Alt Text" to something descriptive of your image to improve the accessibility of your article.

Choosing a Cover Image

I also strongly recommend choosing a cover image for your article. This image shows up in Dev.to's feed and any social links to your article and can make a big difference in whether or not people click into your article.

Additionally, it makes your article look much better once you actually navigate into it.

To do this, scroll to the top of the editor and choose "Add a cover image".

In an attempt to choose the most meta image ever, I've gone with a cover image in this article of a screenshot of writing this article.

In all likelihood, there are times when you just don't have a good image to use, and in those situations, I recommend using Unsplash for free artwork. They have a decently wide selection of images and you can typically find something compelling, funny, and beautiful to use as your own header.

Finishing Up

Now you're ready to give your article a final review and click publish.

Congratulations! You just wrote your first article!

Your journey isn't done yet, though.

Promoting your Article

Your article is only as good as you make it and you do need to do some light promotional work to get the full effects of writing.

Sharing on Social Media

First, I recommend linking directly to your new article on Twitter and LinkedIn. This will help your existing contacts find it and see what you're up to, but it also gives them an easy way to like it, comment it, and - most importantly - share it.

There are also some interesting hashtags you can use on social media to help others find your content. Tags such as #LearnToCode #WomenInTech (if you are) #100DaysOfCode (If you're taking on that challenge), etc. are often helpful for getting new bloggers discovered.

You can also ping me on twitter at @IntegerMan or on LinkedIn with new articles and I'll be happy to take a look at them as well.

Suggesting a Dev.to Tweet

Dev.to will proactively promote posts on Twitter, LinkedIn, and potentially other mediums, but it can also be helpful to give them a nudge.

You can do this by going into the article that you just wrote and clicking "Manage" (you will only see this if you are logged in).

From there, you can scroll down to the "Suggest a Tweet" form. Submit the text of the tweet and click "Share Tweet Suggestion".

The worst thing that happens from doing this is someone says "No, I don't think I'll share this", but the upside can be huge for a new blogger.

While you're in there, I also recommend clicking on the experience level of the post and setting it to the appropriate level.

What Next?

So, you now have your first blog post in the wild and are part of a newer and larger community.

My number one recommendation to you is to stay active. Read what others write on Dev.to. Keep coding. Keep contributing.

Get active on Twitter about technology.

Keep writing and others will continue to read. If you write well enough and long enough, it can drastically change your career - even opening up paid opportunities in writing, speaking opportunities, interview requests, and even jobs.

Posted on by:

integerman profile

Matt Eland

@integerman

Matt is committed to helping people achieve greater things. After over three decades of coding, Matt put away his mechanical keyboard and made teaching his primary job as he looks to help others grow.

Tech Elevator

Tech Elevator is an intensive in-person education provider helping individuals and companies acquire in-demand technology skills for the modern workforce.

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