Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sublime Text 3 shortcuts used as part of my daily workflow

Hello there,

Shortcuts are an integral part of my daily workflow as programmer. Apart from the shortcuts that I use via my oh my zsh dotfile(the ones that come via oh my zsh plugins and the custom ones that I've added on top of those), below are the day to day programming shortcuts that I use wrt Sublime Text 3 for Mac OSX.

I'd be happy to know if you find any of them useful.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Crossed 10k blog views - a blog about how to make your blog better(reflecting back on my blogging experiences - part 3).

Greetings everyone,

This is my last post(part 3) as part of the series - "Crossed 10k blog views - reflecting back on the experiences of being a blogger". You can read the blogs on part 1 - Why you should consider blogging and part 2 - a blog on how to blog of the series as well. I've been wanting to talk about the third part for a while now and I'm happy that I finally was able to roll it out. I know this post was expected to be published sometime earlier but somehow it just got postponed, I'm sorry for the delay from my end. Below are my two cents on how could one make their blogpost better and thereby be a better blogger.

In no particular order, here goes nothing -

1. The title of your post matters. Choose wisely here as this is the first thing that any reader would see when they visit your blog. Also, please note this is the first thing your blog subscribers would see in the subject wrt the new mails they receive(this is for those readers who've subscribed to your blogs via email updates), Keeping it concise is great and when you find that doing so is hard, try to see if you can choose alternate words to help keep your blogpost title short.

2. Read others blog and see what you find nice about their blog and the way they've gone about writing it. Next time around you might want to embrace that one nice thing you saw in somebody else's blog to give your blog a unique flavor. Talking about flavor reminds me of food :). People make Yummy food by trying different combinations ;) . Just make sure you make an informed decision on this and don't simply go out the way when experimenting new things as part of a new blog. Take in the new ideas one at a time and see how each new addition is responded to by your valuable readers.

3. Break things down

In the body section of your blog it'd be nice if you'd break each of the things you want to talk about in smaller paragraphs instead of talking about all of them in one huge para. A body can easily form 3-5 small paras(or more, just quoting an e.g., here) and that would look any day more neater than say 2 huge paras.

4. Label(or in other words tag) your blog appropriately so that people could search(if the blogging platform that you use supports that feature) for the blog post via keywords they'd enter in the search bar once they visit your blog site.

5. Choose a blogging platform wisely where you think you'd like to regularly blog from. Personally for me, Blogger as a platform serves many of my needs very well. Below are some reasons why I think so -
a. It allows me label my posts and folks can easily search from the posts that I've written so far by using appropriate labels in the search bar.
b. Through their stats feature that they provide I get a better idea of which posts people like and it also helps me better understand what was good about this post when compared to say a previous one and that way I can learn by filling in some missing gaps(helping me overcome some of the mistakes I've been making in my earlier posts) instead of simply repeating the same mistake again.
c. It allows me to easily integrate certain built in widgets as well some custom widgets. An e.g., widget that I use is 'Follow by Email'.

6. Highlight things in bold wherever you think it's important. This really helps to give your readers a quick summary of important takeaways from your post.

7. Less is more - yes and no

As a blogger, for quite a while I wasn't sure if my blog should be of a specific length. IMHO there's no fixed rule to this, may be it just depends on what's the topic of your post. Some posts might need more information and thereby might call for them to be longer, whereas in other cases a shorter post could be just right.

I'll just give you an e.g., of how I went about deciding this for two blogposts that I've written a while ago.

Blog 1(The longer blog) - Newspaper Collection Drive at Cognizant for a Cause - An Experience till the Journey's End

Blog 2(The shorter one) - What are the employability skills required for an entry level engineer in an IT Industry(atleast in India)?

8. A picture is worth a thousand words - use them. I recently was listening to an audiobook on 'Your Brain at Work' by David Rock and there he very nicely throws light on how a picture talks not only about the multiple entities that come as part of the capture, but also about the relationships among those entities. For e.g., take a picture of somebody's graduation pic you could see a lot of things like - the graduating student, happiness, the university, other folks in the pic(like the parents or a partner etc.,). Now think about this, do you see how wonderfully these entities are connected by just one picture :). Personally, this came as a wonderful insight to me from the book.

9. Use appropriate widgets in the blog to let readers get to know more about you(like the LinkedIn widget, Stackoverflow widget etc.,) and contact you(I've provided my email in the 'About' section of my blog) as a follow up on your blogpost, if they might want to. One thing about being a blogger is that you need to stay connected with your viewers, the folks who comment on your blog etc., These folks are your readers so it's a good thing if you provide them your contact in case they'd want to reach out to you urgently(This can really help if your blog has technical articles too). In the past I've contacted some bloggers through their email wherever I had a follow up question on their original post and wanted a prompt response.

I would like to also add, most recently I've added this widget called 'Pocket' and my readers can very easily save a link to each of my blog posts through this cool widget. It really helps when one say for e.g., has figured out a post towards EOD and has say a bus to catch for the journey back home. That person can simply save a link to my blog via this handy widget and revisit the post anytime in the future. These days, even Twitter has added this to help save a link to each of the tweets that one might find handy. Convenient, isn't it :) .

10. The Learning goes on, ask people and read books on how to blog better if you have may be detailed questions on how to blog better about specific topics. If you're techie, this book on Technical Blogging might be of interest to you.

11. Spreading the word.

Yes, you heard it right, you should spread the word about your post and trust me there is isn't any shame whatsoever in doing it. It's your wall on Facebook or your account on Twitter, you're free to talk about anything appropriate, so simply do it(reminds me of Nike's slogan - 'Just Do It' :)).

The idea is pretty simple, the folks who know what you are as an individual(although the extent they know can vary from person to person) would visit your post and some might like/retweet/favorite your post and the rule is simple, anything with more likes/retweets/favorites automatically draws the attention to other viewers of your twitter feed/ facebook wall.

Do this even on professional platforms like LinkedIn. I think this is very handy especially when you talk about blogposts related to your area of work. In my case for e.g., I sometimes go to the the extent of not only posting my technical blog on Linkedin but also post them in relevant technical groups within the Linkedin platform, narrowing down to what I may believe would be the ideal audience of my post.

12. What should I blog about? Many folks have this question. I've had this question in the past too. From somebody I learnt that one way to figure out what to write about is by simply thinking about something that you wish you could easily find out in the internet but wasn't that easily available unless you actually searched by spending more time than what you'd usually do in general.

13.  Add some humor to your posts. Variety is the spice of life, adding some genuine humor in the way you interact with your audience through your post is just a nice way to connect with your audience and it makes writing even more joyful as you can may be live the thought that yeah, my post actually could get someone to smile :). I also see that speakers do this in the conference talks and audiences enjoy such talks with an element of light humor.

14. Timing of your blog is crucial as well. I kinda relate more to this point from the perspective of the profession I'm in and you might thus find this point subjective in a way. I'm basically a developer and in the software world the technology that I use for development gets updated from time to time and as a result any tech blog that might be applicable now, might just not be that applicable if you delay posting the same blog a month later in case there is some enhancement/new feature added to that technology that helps one get the job done in a better way. Trying to push yourself to roll out tech blogs as early as you could before they lose it's relevance is really worth the effort.

15. Give credits to others where appropriate. If a part of your blog uses something that isn't originally yours, giving credit to the original owner of that specific asset which makes your blog even more complete is probably the least you could do to appreciate their effort especially since it's adding more value to your blog.

Lastly, I believe I still have more things to learn(as mentioned in one of the points above) along the journey of how to be a better blogger. I hope to update this blog as and when I learn more ways to be a better blogger along the way.

Hope the above points help you become a better blogger. In case they did, I'd be happy to hear from you :)


Photo credits -