In the woods

Every morning I hear the lives, hummingbirds, geese, and rustling leaves. Also I smell the lives, pine trees, gardenias, and dew-wet grass. Nature never judges us, gender, colour, background…


5 mistakes I committed while blogging

As the title of this write-off suggests, I’ll be mainly focusing on what I identified as sources of my failure. As I cannot recite exact measurable goals from that era when I started, I also cannot clearly state if I succeeded or failed. Nevertheless, in my view, being in that situation is a token of failure anyway.

I don’t feel I would be able to give anyone some genuine advice on how to do blogging the right way, because I don’t think I’ve found my way so far. Thus, I confine myself to factually summarize what I did in the last one and a half years and what lessons I learned from that.

It’s been an early decision that I would be posting articles weekly on Friday. Since the 16th of March, 2017 there have been 75 weeks, which means that I should have had roughly ~70 articles by now. In contrast, at the time of writing I have got only 22 published and further 4 ones as drafts have fallen into oblivion. That’s approximately the third of the original target, hence I have to admit that I was clearly inconsistent in writing.

Inconsistency also leads to low traffic, which in turn leads to being unable to figure out what my audience would be interested in. In a broader sense, the consequence is that I cannot claim that I have an audience at all. As you can see on the following chart, taken from Google Analytics, there are only a handful of people, approximately 2% of all visitors on the site, who are returning. That’s 15 people, out of which 2 subscribed to my mailing list.

Lesson learned: Inconsistency is accounted for the lack of engagement on the site and also for the lack of validated learning on what folks are interested.

Okay then, but why was I unable to do that? I’ve managed to identify three reasons, let’s have a closer look at them.

This is quoted and referred to by software engineers quite often and that’s not without reason. What does it have to do with blogging anyway and why do I bring this up? Well, I think that premature optimization is the root of all evil in other areas of life also, if one (me in this case) is allocating time and resources to solve problems which currently don’t exist or even if they do exist, their impact on the goal to achieve is marginal. In my case, I wanted to be there where those people were, who have been blogging for 5+ years and of course I wanted to do that in literally no time.

Lesson learned: I shouldn’t have tried to solve problems I didn’t have, I had better focus on creating quality content about my chosen engineering topic and listen to my audience’s feedback.

I assumed — and we all know that assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups — that multi-part case-study series were that people wanted to read about. As a matter of fact, that’s two assumptions.

Other than that, my experience with multi-part series is that the first part attracts large number of visitors. Sometimes they’re even re-shared up by key influencers, but then writing the rest of the series leads to diminishing returns. Here we arrive to the the problem of choosing the size of units of work correctly, I’ll elaborate on more that in the next section.

Lesson learned: I spent too much time on writing long article series based on bare assumptions. I’ll test my assumptions systematically and prioritize my efforts more carefully.

By thinking in article series, I committed myself to having to write about the same chain of thought for weeks and that prevented me from experimenting with a broad range of topics. I’ve also observed that I wrote very long articles, sometimes they were around 2000–2500 words (including code samples). Taking a closer look at the articles of other bloggers I follow, I found that the typical size of their articles fell into the range of 800–1200 words (also with code samples).

When I opted for writing article series, I didn’t realize that it was a huge batch (7 parts totaling 8K words). I don’t how much time it took to write it and how much time I spent on creating that software the series is about. That’s the next critical point: lack of accounting.

Lesson learn: I’ll write shorter articles more frequently, at least once a week.

I’ve got the following questions. Some of them are operational and some of them are related to validating my assumptions.

Don’t look at me, I cannot answer them! I’ve got many ideas on content, on how to structure my blog and on many other things. Yet, I have to stop attacking ideas and implementing them immediately when they cross my mind.

Lesson learned: without accounting what I do and collecting data there is no validated learning, it’s just shooting in the dark hoping that I hit a random target.

I started this article with the title 3 mistakes I committed while blogging, but have found five so far. If I continued writing it, I’m confident I would find even more. It’s a long enough reading already, it’s time to finish.

All that being said, I making the following mental notes to myself and hope that perhaps they will help others as well.

That’s it folks, take care!

— László

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