AMA: How To Start Blogging AMA with Louise Gibbs, Bruce, Chris Armstrong & Lee Marshall

I’m frequently embarrassed by things I have said, or quite how many commas I use in sentences, but letting go of those small things to instil a bit more of discipline to my writing isn’t a bad thing.

I’ll take a read of yours now, thank you for sharing!

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I mentioned this a little during the ama, but for me I enjoy writing techy posts more, which is a bit silly because I enjoy reading non-techy posts more. I simply find it really hard to talk about topics that are more difficult to define, so I enjoy showing things I’ve done. In terms of analytics on my posts though, non-techy stuff gets a much wider/bigger audience.

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Agree with Chris here. I used to have a personal life blog a long while ago, and I blogged under X.blogspot.com and it was fine. I’d also be happy to blog under X.wordpress.com now, but at the time I started my blog, I’d just settled into having a real wage for the first time in my life and I wanted to spend it on things I liked, and the extra cool feel of having my own domain was one of those things - when I was younger, I used to go on those websites selling domains, looking them up and talking with my siblings about what websites we’d make, what they’d be called etc. So for me, it had a bit of personal importance (and oneupmanship on my siblings and my dad who also blogs uwahaha)

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Sharing on social media more than once. I’m really awful at this, but one of the best things you can do is keep telling people about your blog. I tend to write a post, tell people on twitter, and then pretend like nothing has happened for the rest of time. The thing is, half my followers were probably not online at the time, maybe they happened not to see it, maybe they filed it away in their head like “oh I want to read that later when I have time” but then they forget. It’s actually good to post about it again later.

There’s also a lot of googley stuff, SEO things, you can do to make your page more easily found. This will mean you get more views on those stretches between publishing posts. When I first started, I’d get 10 views on the day a post was published, maybe 1-2 the following day, and then nothing at all until my next post. Two years later, and I get more than my old peaks just as background noise passing through every day, and then spikes when I write something new. This isn’t super important for me, since I don’t monetise the blog, but some things that help you get background traffic, or so I’ve heard:
Tagging your posts well, and having titles that properly explain what they’re about - my worst performing post is one whose title is just “Concentrate.” and tbh even I don’t remember what’s in it. My best performers are ones that don’t have silly/comedic/culture-reference titles, as much as it pains me that this is the case. eg “I made X using Y”, “Why Z is super pants”.

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I think you asked this on twitter too, but I’ll answer here because I can give a longer answer. I love webtoons, I have 30+ webcomics that I follow closely, and maybe 100 that are in my list, that I fall behind on and then catch up with later. xD

I’ve been trying to write webcomics since I was 15, and my first ever one is still out there, hosted on a site called drunkduck or something like that. xD I also have drafts of a fantasy webtoon I started drawing in November, but tbh being able to draw isn’t the primary skill you need to draw a comic - some of my fav comics over time have had awful art (at least to begin with) like Dominic Deegan Oracle For Hire, and Questionable Content. The primary skill you need - oh, after storytelling actually, which I do have - is the ability to panel! This is definitely a skill I do not have at the moment. I am practicing though, because I super want to draw comics - and one about working in tech would be pretty fun.

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I can relate so much to this!

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I started blogging internally - on an internal blog. Which was a great way to get started, learning the ropes and getting a routine going. sharing interesting links etc. my internal blog was used among others and an example of good use of a global collaboration tool. :slight_smile: - so I blogged about that here.

Internal posts, though doesn’t come with you when you leave. Neither does blogging on the company blog. So I moved to a free wordpress in 2012 and has been there since (255 posts).

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Fair enough! Thank you @christovskia.
I fixed blogging as a goal in 2020.
I was in doubt the whole first 6 months, always saying until it will be better with more valuable content.
Last month I finally took decision to move it to
Emnaayadi.com with personal blog plan :blush:

Not sure about the future if I’ll spend every year (that’s why I’m always asking the same question to get different opinions) as with wordpress is kinda expensive the hosting .com.
I couldn’t use nice plugins with personal plan, they oblige more spending on the premium edition to use them.

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I am going to check out your blog later!

It is possible to buy your own domain for less and still use it in WordPress. That is what we have done for Testing Peers at https://testingpeers.com/

@r_crax worked all that out, he might be able to shed more light on it, here or elsewhere.

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Exactly what I need!

Well for the first year there is a value of 64$ for free I think but starting from the second year it will be much more important (4$*12+64$) on wordpress.

Looking forward to Russel tips :wink:

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Happy to help, no real secrets just shop around. Most of the hosts out there support WordPress as a format/template and most of them have deals to entice you so make the most of them and transfer out when the deal ends or just speak to them.

We use Bluehost but partly as I was ready using them and it cost just for a new domain really in our case.

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is this event available on the dojo for non-premium members?

Yes - It has just gone live.

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My reasons for hosting my own personal WordPress blog were:

  • I was already familiar with the software.
  • my blog is on a server in my home country.
  • my host provided a one click setup for my website.

Unexpected benefits were:

  • I learned about securing my WordPress website.
  • WordPress offers options to make my blog accessible. (a11y)
  • there are no advertisements on my website.
  • I got a better grasp of HTML and CSS. This was really handy, when I blogged about technical stuff like Test Driven Development.
  • I really had to pay attention to legal issues like the use of cookies.
  • I learned that plug ins can improve or break my website.
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Just bear in mind that if you use your company’s hosting platform, the content must be something the company will be comfortable with. Having had roles in the past where I might well publicly express views the employer would not necessarily endorse*, I know that there are times when this issue might emerge out of the shadows to take you by surprise (and not always on matters that would seem obvious).

*I spent twenty years as a trade union representative in the Civil Service, and sometimes had to speak publicly, in my union capacity, on matters which were outside my immediate employer’s remit but which reflected on Government policy - say, on public sector wages - in an overarching way.

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Really good point about where you are hosting and who you are representing. I think that it helps to draw a line between these things.

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Some of my tricks to get organic traffic:

  • Publish at least once a month. This way I got trained to write faster and observe better.
  • Use a mix of small and big blog posts. Be patient; the blog posts will be become longer in time.
  • Write experience reports or real stories. When in doubt, sanatise the story. Remove all confidential information. E.g. I created an imaginary website for this purpose. General technical information should be shared freely. E.g. in these blog posts I describe how I improved flaky tests.
  • Slice the story in multiple blog posts.
  • Slice the blog post in paragraphs and publish a few paragraphs day by day. I call it microblogging.
  • Choose the same theme for the next blog posts. A category is really handy for this purpose.
  • Refer to blog posts in tweets. Really pay attention to the added value of the reference and the context in the blog post. This year I got in a discussion with an author of the Agile Manifesto, because I forgot the context.
  • Put the website on your social media and presentations. Also consider the github profile and the like.
  • For perfectionists: publish the blog post and remove errors after the publication. These things happen. Do not let them slow you down.
  • Be yourself. This takes the least effort in the long run. Also a unique style is really appreciated.
  • Okay, one more last tip. Write for beginners. It is a big audience.
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My favourite tool for blogging is mind mapping. I can edit on my smartphone, which has auto correct.

In 2016 I wrote a blog post how I added humour to my MoT workshop:
https://mindfultester.com/adding-humour
In the next blog post I described my steps using the original mind maps:
https://mindfultester.com/3-2-1-dissect

For the people who like word games:
yes, it is meta blogging, blogging about blogging.

I once used the following blog post pattern for mind tricks.

  • describe an unexplainable situation.
  • give an explanation.
  • share tips.
    After a while I got bored with this format and I dropped it.

Nowadays I used a more sophisticated structure:

  • Intro
  • The real stuff
  • Wrap up

In turn the real stuff has a clear structure:

  • follow these steps.
  • problem, path, proposal or solution.

I mix it with side steps and illustrating stories.

If it gets boring, I throw in some jokes. Something like:
“This costs a lot of time to tell and to remember. You can give it a try.”

The real fancy stuff is structuring a blog post serie. For the Fast Forwarding serie I used the following tricks:

  • the featured images or the images at the beginning of the blogs posts are connected with music and Test Driven Development.
  • I use the example of giving instructions for walking in Amsterdam.
  • the images are drawn in the same way.

Of course it is also possible to make links to other blog post(s) (series).

There is an unwritten rule for selecting speakers:
what is your opinion on the web?

I think that a Code of Conduct or CoC is important for an event. If an event organiser with a CoC reads my blog posts about this subject, then there is less hesitation to select me as a speaker.

On the other hand statements on the web can have other consequences.
Most people tend to think about blogs. There are also social media. In the past speakers withdrew from conferences because of some tweets of/ about another speaker.

Another thing about having a blog is a proof that I am used and willing to share knowledge. I used this argument in job interviews.