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Dr Abstract
Dr Abstract

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How to write for Dev

Have you noticed these things about the Dev community?

  1. There are a lot of articles every hour
  2. There are many unique, specific topics
  3. That's all I have - what have you noticed?

I figured that because of these things, I would write differently for Dev. For Medium I wrote complete, encompassing articles / tutorials that should stand the test of time and act like references. You can see here for comparison:

For Dev, I decided to write short articles so that there is a better chance that people will see them - you can see them at Unfortunately, these stories are listed beneath a bunch of comments - which I would rather show up underneath my stories - but who looks at author pages anyway.


I find, when scrolling through the headlines, that if I see something that I do not know about or think that I will not be interested in, I just scroll on past. Same with if I already think I know it, or do not need to know it at the time.

There are two main draws:

  1. Will it be useful?
  2. Will it be entertaining?

Most of us are here for something useful. But sometimes we can be enticed by entertaining - to read about an experience or an opinion. I am not sure how many people are here for something new.


It is important to write headlines to which people can relate. In somewhat traditional media, like tabloids, headlines can be something unbelievable or have shock value. Is that what we need to get readers? I am certainly tempted to try. But my foray in to unusual headlines has led me no where so far.

Here are some things to note in the headline examples below. And we will discuss success afterwards.

  1. Some meta is happening. "Flipped out over Flipper". Coders love meta.
  2. A question is asked - coders love to help.
  3. Time or statistics are used in comparison - good proof.
  4. A reference to something known (and loved?) is included - Angry Birds.
  5. Time sensitive titles are used - like Happy Halloween.
  6. The overall platform - canvas - is included to help grow awareness. The drawback may be that people do not know or want to know about the canvas - why, I don't know.
  7. Tutorial-like leads like - build this... code this...
  • The Making of an Angel Maker
  • Flipped out over Flipper?!
  • Hey Devs - have you seen this before - parameters done two ways?
  • Flash is gone! We dedicate this book
  • I think I understand Noise - here is my description
  • Adding Score and Reset to Angry Birds - like Game
  • Angry Birds - like Physics game in 15 minutes with ZIM!
  • Happy Halloween!
  • Roller Coaster! On the Canvas with ZIM
  • Multiuser on the Canvas
  • new Circle().center().drag();
  • How to Emit Love!
  • Explore the Canvas
  • Easy Shapes on the Canvas!
  • Find out how this fun physics game was made
  • Do you like these Five Minute challenges?
  • 42% the Size of HTML SCSS with ZIM...
  • Animate objects along a user editable path in two lines of JavaScript


Absolutely not. Sigh. Despite our best intentions, we have so far failed to capture an audience on Dev. Maybe we just have to keep at it. Maybe the word "canvas" in titles have put people off - what a shame. Maybe we just have so many writers and not as many readers? But others seem to do it. So how?


One technique that bugs me to no end on Twitter is all the tech folks asking menial questions like - what editor do you use? Or how many cups of coffee do you drink in a day? Sigh. It probably bugs me because they get hundreds of answers. I just can't bring myself to do this... and when I did, I did not get a hundred answers. Sigh.


I have been writing for years on blogs and social media. I have always remained respectful, peaceful, positive, promoting creativity, etc. And here we are with 2 likes and 1 share. I have launched what I think are the most amazing things in the world to 1 like and 2 shares - by bots.

Is it time to be critical? And say... What the fuck Google? Flutter is the worst software since Microsoft SilverLight. I have a name... Dr Abstract. Surprisingly, it is not my real name - which is Dan Zen. Surprisingly, that may not be my real name. So should I change it to Dan Thorn? And start to be a Pundit / Critic? Nah... not in my nature...

But... how can I reach more people? Any thoughts? I am probably not alone, and this is all part of the Social Media Mental Health issue. We are all special, and we are all feeling ignored. The more you give, the more you make, the more you hope to help, the harder it can be to be ignored.


Obviously, we should be enjoying the doing for the doing sake. The writing for the writing sake. Plus, even if one or two people get something from your article - that is good. Maybe not everyone who likes something gives a like. I almost wish there were just an auto-liker. Hey Dev leaders... why don't you just record a like when someone reads the article? How about a random AI like every couple hours. It would make us so happy ;-).


Apparently, or possibly, commenting on other articles, following other people, etc. will help grow a following. I have tried that on Twitter - reading, liking, empathizing, commenting, etc. I am just getting very little back. Back to that AI again... I swear, I hope that many cases of these people with thousands of followers are running bots.

I have tried communicating to some degree here on Dev. Not sure if it is working. Anybody reading this because I read your article? Leave a comment! The thing is... I tend more towards creation and less towards consumption. That is my nature. So it is hard - and is it necessary - for me to read and communicate so much with others? I guess, my success in having others get involved with my content is the answer. 2 Likes and 1 follow.


There... how about that for a shock headline! One thing I have noticed that if you write about something popular it is easier. There is a fellow called Wes Bos and another called Florin Pop. Both amazing names. More amazing than Dr Abstract or Dan Zen... perhaps - but it is close.

Wes writes about new things in JavaScript ES6. He has people falling all over him about how great the content is. He is, without a doubt, a good teacher. But in comparing videos, it is not all that different than many of my educational videos. A big difference is that he is writing about JavaScript and I am writing about ZIM at So it kind of gets me that he is so successful yet he did not even make JavaScript. All he is doing is explaining something. I build a full framework equivalent to Flash to help people code creativity on the canvas and get 5 likes on YouTube. Sour grapes ;-).

Florin is now up to thousands and thousands of followers on YouTube teaching conventional things. Sigh. I so wish that that many people were tuned into ZIM. His exuberance could have been so helpful rather than leading people to the same old world of the DOM and its text-heavy usefulness.

It is harder to write for the underdog.


This article did not really get into the actual writing part. One thing... I do not like DEV as much as an interface compared with Medium. I am just not that good at markdown. And I want to just cut and past screenshots for pics. Otherwise it is fine. And I did not get into editing (I am bad at that) and presentation, etc. Perhaps in another article. So hopefully you were not misled by the title. It was actually, an experiment to see if writing about writing would work! Did I get ya?

In the end, it was somewhat therapeutic and hopefully helps my 3 or 4 readers! Cheers.

Dr Abstract

If you have not checked out the Canvas recently - you simply must! Here is the ZIM Dev Site and some In-depth Guides by Dr Abstract including Your Guide to Coding Creativity on the Canvas.

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