how to blog about code and give zero fucks
I’m frustrated right now. I’ve been looking for someone to write about a technology that tons of people have no doubt used and am coming up short. Really, this is my own fault, because I was hoping I’d find someone who wasn’t a white male to address the topic. There’s nothing wrong with a white male addressing the topic, but I’ve been recommending a lot of white males to write about technologies and I was hoping to put my money where my mouth is in terms of my hopes for the diversity of the field in which I work.
I checked a bunch of related repos on GitHub and found that the maintainers were white guys and the committers were white guys and the people filing issues were white guys. So I checked the Following lists of related Twitter accounts and found.. more white guys. The few women I found either didn’t blog or had Tumblrs full of inspirational quotes and cupcake photos and shit. (Which is fine. But not what I happened to be looking for an expert on.)
And so this is how I became frustrated, because I don’t want to hit up people I know over and over again, and I need a way to know people are interested in and knowledgeable about certain topics, and the internet was giving me fuck-all.
Which brings me to the subject of this post, which is that you, developer in an underrepresented group who hopefully received this link somehow through the magical machinations of social media, should be blogging more. I need you to blog more. Little future developers who look or act or dress or think like you need you to blog more. Your slightly confused and defensive developer community needs you to blog more. Please please please please. And if you are like, “I give zero fucks about what those people need, I need to get off work at six and build charming birdhouses or customize my bicycle or something,” the best part is giving zero fucks is totally fine.
See, if you were an ambitious type, you wouldn’t need me to prevail upon you to blog more. You would be doing that and speaking at conferences and merrily on your way to becoming the next Marissa Mayer and that would be just fine for everyone. But there are a lot more not-Marissa-Mayers in the world than there are Marissa Mayers and those people need representation, lest we get it into our obsessive little developer heads that if you are not constantly being the very best at everything you should just go home. We need blog posts that aren’t about big fluffy TED topics like programmer diversity and are instead about that fucking stubborn and reprehensible bug you spent five hours on today because you couldn’t find a goddamned thing on StackOverflow.
So here are some simple guidelines for blogging about code while giving barely any fucks at all from someone who used to do exactly that and still has a job and outside interests too and it’s fine:
no quality control
Fuck quality control. If you wanted a code review, you’d put it on GitHub, amirite? It’s an idea, or a solution, or just a list of links. If you start thinking for even one second that isn’t valuable, try to picture you yourself finding such a thing when you started your day this morning and all the agony and yak-shaving it would have saved you. The internet is full of horrible crap! If your horrible crap is at least well-intentioned, it’s probably a step up from the other horrible crap. You don’t have to be perfect, or convert your glorious tabs to spaces, or even spell-check the damned thing. Just hit Post. The worst that will happen is nothing. Which brings us to..
assume no one will ever see it
People don’t click every link they see in a Twitter bio or a GitHub repo. I don’t even normally do that, which probably half explains why I can’t find you right now when I need you to write about this really important thing. This is great! It means there’s nothing for you to be embarrassed about. It means no haters will leave you nasty comments about how you should indent with spaces. It means your blogging is a nice record for you of all the problems you struggled with and overcame that, believe me, you will completely forget ever happened if you don’t write them down. If you don’t want it to, it never has to be anything more than that.
write like yourself
Writing is not fun if you have to stress over it, but if you can entertain yourself with it, it can be. So, I apologize for the excessive-even-for-me sweariness of this particular blog post, but I will also tell you that it is getting written a shitload faster than things I try to write in a professional and grammatically correct voice. If you want to “write” a whole blog post that is nothing but code examples and reaction gifs, that is valid as heck. Write it without capitalization or apostrophes. Who cares. They say you should write drunk and edit sober, and the thrill of getting something written down really quickly and in a way that amuses you is not unlike drunkenness. But also..
Or if that’s not your vice, eat ice cream. Have America’s Next Top Model playing on the TV in the background. Reflecting on your work shouldn’t have to feel like being at work. Take your pants off. Get comfortable.
actually write about code
I don’t know why, but I think it makes you feel like a better coder. It’s good to be able to explain things, or at least lay them out in snippets so it’s clear how they work together. It’s fun. And if it’s something you already coded, it means that shit is already mostly finished.
If you are currently averaging 0 comments per blog post, it might seem validating to accept each and every potential future comment immediately so at least someone is responding, but don’t. Statistically, the internet is 97% trolls, and you would think that trolls would not bother with a blog where there are normally 0 comments but that would be incorrect. Speaking from experience here, the thrill of seeing a new comment appear only to find out it’s baseless and nasty is far, far less than the thrill of seeing a four-page screed about Bitches Need To Stay In The Kitchen; And Also Impeach Obama in your moderation queue, considering all the time that went into writing it, and hitting Delete. Remember, this is your blog, and no one asked Hacker News for its feedback.
don’t hit post immediately
If you want to not worry about what might happen if other people someday see your blog, do yourself a solid and never post anything in the heat of the moment. Save it as a draft and come back and reread it in the morning. And if you like it in the morning, it’s good! Moreover, if you like it in the morning, you are good at blogging. If you can amuse yourself when you just woke up and you heard all the jokes about the text selection API last night, you have done a good job. And if you can’t, fuck it, leave it in the drafts and don’t worry about rewriting it. Do you want to know how many drafts I have saved on this blog? It is a lot. But not rewriting it is also very important. If you thought it was kind of a piece of shit the first time and you sit down to write it again thinking, “Don’t write a piece of shit. Don’t write a piece of shit,” you will write an even worse piece of shit. Write it later, when a new angle or really clever hack suddenly inspires you. Or not at all. Some blog posts make really good first drafts.
promote it. or don’t.
You might like having a little secret blog where you quietly explain all the things that are wrong with contenteditable that you never ever intend on filing a bug for. Or you might eventually begin to desire some recognition. Both are fine. I mean, please link to the damned thing somewhere, but you are not obligated to tweet once per timezone to alert the internet that You Have Written a Thing. However, if you write a thing and you feel pretty certain it’s brilliant or hilarious or just really elegantly executed clickbait, you don’t have to feel weird about sharing it. The internet is huge. There’s probably at least one other person out there who will feel the same way.
just please please please do it
The same goes for putting your stuff on GitHub, and speaking at your local meetups, and going to your local meetups in the first place, but those can be a lot more intimidating. All joking aside, our communities need to hear from people who aren’t the maintainers and conference speakers and web celebrities. We need to hear from people who give zero fucks, who never worry about their Klout scores or how many people starred their repo. The big names create an echo chamber where ideas are safe and popular and failure and being wrong are covered up so no one else can learn from them. We don’t really badly need any more of that crap. We need you.