Creating a developer’s blog

This post is Day #3 in a series called Personal Branding for Software Developers.

In this next article in my series on personal branding I want to talk about the first item every developer should have in their toolbox – a blog. I say the word blog but what I really mean is a website about your professional life. I will discuss the differences below and why a site is so important.

A professional blog or website allows you talk about all the things you find interesting, frustrating or funny about your profession. This site should be exclusively about your work as a software developer. In trying to project a professional image I would not suddenly take your site about funny cat photos and start promoting it as your professional site. While your colleagues might find this amusing the HR person who Google’s your name will probably not.

So, you know you need a blog/site but you are unsure of where to start. Now because we are software or web developers you think ahhh… I got a leg up on everyone else. I can create my own site. Not so fast. You might be a web developer but how are your design skills? Are they just OK or do they really rock everyone’s world? The role of a web developer has changed over the years and specialization has come to the fore. Designers should definitely develop their own sites. Developers who are design challenged like myself should leave it to the professionals.

If you would rather focus on your site’s content instead of its design then you can use a service like Blogger or WordPress.com. There are also other sites like Squarespace that provide templates to create a personal site.

As with either method there are some trade-offs you need to explore. With a personal site that you create and maintain you can generally have your own domain name. It is still impressive to see JoeSchmo.com as someone’s personal site. You can go there and learn all about them. If you code and maintain your own site it shows people that you have the level of technical proficiency to do these tasks. However you will need to find someplace to host your site. It could be hosted by you or through a third party. Whatever you choose you will need to factor in the cost of the domain plus the hosting fees.

If you use a site like WordPress you can buy your own domain and host it there but more likely you are going to go for the free option. So your domain will be something like YOURNAME.wordpress.com. While this is not a bad thing you do not get the instant name recognition you do with a personal domain. However, where these sites shine is that you get their themes and page layouts to generate a unique UI in a short amount of time. You also get a platform to create new pages and posts quickly. Plus there are lots of plugins like polls, Twitter feeds and word clouds of article tags that you can add to your site to provide an extensive amount of user interaction.

With whatever method you choose you will be providing information about yourself and demonstrating your knowledge about the topic you have chosen to write about. The site can serve as a centre for information about you. You can post a resume or you can share source code of some projects that you worked on. In your blog you can talk about methods or workarounds that you learned to solve certain coding problems. Whatever it is you are writing about the blog serves as a forum where you can establish yourself as an expert. You can demonstrate here that you can learn and that you have a willingness to share your knowledge – an important attribute for team leaders. It also allows you so showcase your skills and shows that you can communicate your thoughts in a professional manner.

However, the site is not just a demonstration of your writing skills. It can also act as a way to promote all of the things you have done on the internet. You can list the websites you have built, the open source projects you have contributed to, the apps you have built and added to mobile marketplaces. You could also list links to your profiles on GitHub, Stack Overflow, CodePlex, etc. You want to demonstrate that you are an active programmer and that you are contributing to the internet.

Finally, when you have your name on your site or blog you start creating an online presence for yourself. The blog and its contents will be indexed by Google. This means when people search your name you will start showing up. You will also start to appear in searches when they look for items related to your field of specialty. This connection can quickly establish you as an expert. With your name now out there you also want to keep people coming back. Thus, content is king. Creating the blog is in some ways the easy part. Maintaining it and coming up with fresh content is going to be the tricky part as time goes by.

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About Ken Cenerelli
I am a Programmer Writer, .NET Developer, Microsoft MVP - Visual Studio and Development Technologies, Public Speaker, Blogger, and Microsoft Azure Nerd. I blog regularly at kencenerelli.wordpress.com and can be found on Twitter via @KenCenerelli.

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