Five years ago I published the first post in this blog. Since then I've worked at four companies and been involved in multiple code bases. This project has been a constant throughout - not just as a place to write words but as my own site to maintain and develop. This, my 46th post, is a reflection on what I've got out of the blog, how it has changed over the years and a look at some of the topics I've covered.
Five years blogging
The first few posts back in 2015 were about why I wanted to blog and the setup of the project. I felt that blogging was a a good thing to do, that I could use it to inform others and also learn things myself. One of my main concerns was that, like many new blogs, it would fizzle out after one or two posts. But here we are five years later! Have I enjoyed writing? Have I got anything from the project and would I do anything different?
Having a blog has been a good thing
Writing and maintaining a blog takes time and effort but it has been a fantastic project and I have got so much out of it. It's been a great way to document and diarise some of the technical areas I've covered over the years helping me track my progression. I've used it to share my thoughts on career changes which helps me understand what I want out of a job. Thses posts have been useful to look back on when I've been considering my next move. This blog has also been a useful project when applying for a job as a portfolio piece. It's been a place to reference talks I've done and side projects I've built. It's been great to have a place where I can write, experiment and share thoughts.
The structure of the blog is my own creation - it's built with a number of packages and tools including node, express, handlebars and jQuery to provide an isomorphic server side rendered progressive web app. The deployment process is my own CI/CD pipeline. It's been fun having my own project to maintain and update over the years. I'm the main user (and reader!) of the project and I get to enjoy building things for myself. It doesn't matter too much if it breaks - it doesn't make any money, isn't essential to anyone so there is no pressure on me apart from the wish to keep it looking good and creating features that I want.
Tone of voice
There were lots of different visions of how the content of the blog would turn out - ranging from a creative, grandiose, polymathic masterpiece through to a place for the odd note. The first few posts I put much quite a lot of work into and the language was more creative and expressive. When I turned to more technical pieces I found that that tone didn't fit so well and also took more energy to get right. Instead I focused on a more stripped down and clear voice - mainly trying hard to trim, cut and slim down whatever I wrote. More recently I've tried to add a bit more color to the way I write, especially for non tech related topics.
Most of the content has been tech related, even the thought section. However posts have covered other areas including my reading habits, end of year reviews and art and architecture
How do I come up with topics? Often I want to learn more about a piece of technology so I'll use it to build a side project or expand the blog and then write a post about it. Reflecting back on what I've built is both satisfying and a learning experience in itself.
Away from tech, things such as career changes or end of year retros are obvious content choices. Apart from that I enjoy reading and have found using the blog to reflect on what I read has had a positive influence on the books I consume. An initial literary related post has spawned a number of others as well as a side project.
How I write
One of my hobbies is running and I usually average at least five hours a week out on my own jogging. That's a big chunk of time and I generally listen to music and let my mind wander. Five hours a week of uninterrupted time (apart from crossing roads and trying not to fall into canals) gives you lots of space to think. During runs I digest stuff that's been happened personally or professionally, plan for 1-1s, dream of the future, try not to think about how tired my legs are and also draft blogs posts in my head.
Out on the streets I can let my mind wander, think about a broad outline of a post, rewrite, rethink, restructure, redo. Over a few weeks I can slowly let an idea wash around in my head, percolate, prod it a few times, push it, shape it and gently work out what I want to say. Then I usually sit down and write out out a few paragraphs just to have something on the page. I'll usually leave it a few days, run around some more, come back to it and try and finish it off in one or two more sessions.
Trying to balance quality vs speed of delivery is always an interesting problem - I care that it's a decent piece but as the content isn't that important I prioritise delivery. Some pieces come easier, some harder.
I've enjoyed writing, building and maintaining a blog. It's been fun and has helped me learn new things as well as providing me a place where I can write. It takes time and effort but with my current life situation writing a post roughly every month is fairly easy to fit in.
Given the current self isolation with coronavirus I anticipate writing more posts - when we can travel and see friends and the world again I wont mind having a break from the screen and writing!
Let's see where we are in five years - I'm guessing getting close to 100 posts. Having said that I will only keep writing if I continue to enjoy it and can fit it in.