What Should I Write About?

It’s that time of the quarter again. Engineers are setting personal goals for the next few months, and as usual the topic of blog posts has come up.

We at Redfin love reading blogs, and many people in engineering have expressed interest in contributing to our blog but often they don’t have a good sense of how to come up with a topic. This post aims to provide some ideas for things that are both fun to write about, and fun to read.

Write about something new you just learned

I think it’s fairly common when you’ve learned something new to feel like everybody else already knows about it, but that’s not true! We all learn new things everyday, and because we’re not all working on the same task at the same time, we learn those things in a different order from others. You might have learned how to get notified that an object has been garbage collected today while your coworker might have spent the day figuring out how to run instrumentation and automation tests with Gradle. Both are interesting in their own way, and by sharing you bring that knowledge to the attention of others. You might even spark a conversation with somebody else and learn even more, who knows?

Learn something new

You know how you’ve always wondered how Spring dispatches to its controllers? Chances are good someone else is wondering too, so download the source code, grab a tasty beverage, and dig in. And when you’re done, write about what you found. Guaranteed, somebody somewhere is going to find that a worthwhile read.

Share some tips

I think this one is the hardest one to convince people to write about. You’ve got finely tuned keyboard shortcuts that you’ve been using for years, and you don’t even think about them anymore. Why not share? It’s totally going to feel like everybody else has *got* to have figured out all the secrets you have by now, but that’s probably not the case, and there are new people getting into the field every day.

Sharing tips also doesn’t have to be limited to keyboard shortcuts. It could mean documenting a novel way you solved (or worked around!) a problem. Example: runtime feature checks let us ship code faster. (Alright, that idea is not strictly novel, but you get the point.)

Bugs

Some bugs that you run into are just too awesome to not share. Case in point, I was alerted to this one via Twitter yesterday: A 20+ year-old bug in X.org that definitely causes a crash, and could maybe grant root permissions in some situations. Awesome.

A behind-the-scenes look at a feature you shipped

I’m pretty sure I speak for most engineers when I say that we like to read about how things are made. If you just shipped a new feature, and it required some acrobatics to do so, write about it. If the process of getting from idea to spec was particularly arduous, we like to hear about those things too. In some ways, anything goes in this category.

Culture

The soft stuff: What is working at your company like? What are interviews like? What’s it like to be an intern? These are a great resource for candidates and potential candidates to find out what working for your company is all about.

The End

There are many, many different topics that make for a good blog post, and these are obviously only a few of them, but they should be enough to get started.

What other kinds of things do people enjoy reading about on engineering blogs?

 

Discussion