You Got This!

Overcoming Bloggers' Block

You know that you have good ideas. You've found some really interesting solutions to difficult problems. But when it comes to writing them down for others to read... you just can't get the words out. In this talk, experienced blogger Terence Eden will step you through how to get your thoughts onto the screen. You'll get tips on how to make writing easier. You'll learn how to become comfortable publishing your thoughts. You'll also discover how to generate new ideas of things to write about. If you've never blogged before - this talk is for you. If you used to blog but stopped - this talk is for you. If you just want some tips on how to keep going - this talk is also for you.

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Thank you very much. Wanting to make sure everything is working. Lovely stuff. Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. Good morning, good afternoon, good evening. Good night, perhaps, for some of you. This is going to be a nice relaxed friendly talk all about blogging.

I love blogging. I've been doing it since the year 2000. I was living in a foreign country and wanted to keep in touch with everyone back home, all my friends had just gone to university, had the internet, and it was exciting. I started writing a blog effectively, just little updates what I was doing. I've not stopped. It's been the one thing I kept doing for I don't even like to think about how many years it is.

So what I want to do is I want to trans Mitt some of the love that I have for blogging into you, and turn you into amazing bloggers. So I'm going to start by talking about who I am, and then we will get into it. If you've got any questions, I think we are going to do some questions at the end.

Please do feel free to stick something into the comments, and we will pick that up. As I said, I've been blogging on and off for over 20 years. You can find my blog here. It's a stupid name for a website, but it's all I've got. I'm stuck with it. I've been blogging there continuously for ages. Do please check it out.

One of the other things I do is blog for work, so people occasionally ask me to write blog posts for them which is nice in a freelance capacity, and occasionally, my employers say we need to communicate something, Terence, can you write a blog post.

This talk is not obviously written, supported or endorsed by my employers, but you can find out who they are easily. So there is a blog post that I wrote for the NHS when I was there, which went quite well. And this is one that I wrote for GOV.UK, talking about some security issues. And practise is the thing I like about blogging is you can speak to everyone everywhere, all around the world. It doesn't have to be about very serious and sensible things like that, it can be stuff that you're interested in as well.

So what is a blog? We will get the boring technical definition out. It's just a website where you start posting stuff on a regular basis. The term was coined in 1997, apparently, "web log" when the web was new and exciting, but now it's old and exciting.

People said "web log" is too many syllables, but now it's blog. It's really a bit of the internet where you put your stuff. That's it. People call Twitter and Mastodon microblogs. That is rubbish, they're blogs. You're posting and sharing something with the world. You might not necessarily control the Twitter website — I don't think anybody controls it any more — they're sites where you're posting content, so they're blogs. You might be already a blogger. Fantastic.

This is the overwhelming, overriding message that I want to impart into your brains, that blogging is your present to the future. I use Linux because I'm cool! And I will be stuck on something. I think how do I use FF mpeg to turn up video from this format to this format, and I can't find a way, and I eventually figure it out, and I write out a blog post saying if you want to do this, use these command lines which work brilliant.

Then 18 months later, I will go, "I need to transform a video from one format to another", how do you do that? The first hit will be my blog. I will go, ah, thanks, Terence from 18 months ago. That was helpful of you. You're leaving gifts sometimes to the future that you inhabit, sometimes it's other people's futures.

People will find your blog posts that you've written and say that's interesting. I never thought of that before been or yes, that's really useful. Thank you for that. This is what you're doing. You have something unique inside you. Maybe it's unique, maybe it's something unique that you've done. Maybe it's just a unique way you've written something. I guarantee people will find it useful. Maybe not immediately, maybe not in ten years, but this is your little present to the future.

That's why blogging I think is so fun, and so important. So when we talk about blogs, we usually talk about words. Lots of very important words. But doesn't have to be that. Lots of people blog in pictures. If you are a photographer and you want to take a series of photos and post them out to people. That is nice. Some people blog with sound, if you're making music, or recording a podcast, videos. There is no way to post smells on the internet. That annoys me. If you're working on how to share a smell over TCP/IP, stick a comment in the chat because I really want to know how to do this. I think blogs should come with smells!

Blogs often have comments where people can leave you messages about what you've written. We are going to talk a bit about that in a few slides' time, because some people like it, some don't. It's a whole thing.

But what I'm trying to get ahead, get over to you is you know, if you're not brilliant with words, you don't need to use words, you can use illustrations, you can use your voice, anything that you have at hand to start sharing your ideas with other people.

Why do it? It is a gift to the future. That's very pretentious, isn't it? But, for me, it is fun. I like having a thought, refining it, and working it into something coherent and sharing it with people, and having them take to me about what I've said. I find it enormously fun and satisfying.

It is also a bit of therapy. Sometimes when you think ah, this is so stupid, why can't I do ... getting your anger out about it, having a good old rant on the internet and posting it, it is enormously cathartic. Really good therapy.

Entirely selfishly, blogging is probably quite good for your career. Being able to write well, write a coherent argument, not ramble, all these things that you will learn by blogging is a super power to your career. And it quite often people will ask you to talks about what you know, and that might be in a public forum, it might be a presentation like this, it might be in a paper, or might be in a website, knowing that you can write, and write well, share your experience is, it is a super power.

And it is also a great way for people to find you and know that you are halfway decent at what you do. Often when people interview you for a job, they will tape your name into a search engine. I've put SEO — search engine optimisation. I'm not the only Terence Eden in the world.

There used to be another one at the top of Google, a major Terence Eden who I think was a soldier in World War One. He's been dead for a long time. He doesn't need to be top of Google, I need to be! I'm sure there are other people with your name. When people search for you, you want to be at the top.

The first thing people will find about you is your excellent bog is where you talk about the wonderful things you've done and the non-technology things that you do. And that is why I think blogging is fantastic.

I'm going to take a sip of water now, but what I would like you to do is in the comments write about if you're a blogger, why you blog, and, if you think about blogging, why you're thinking about blogging.

Okay, right. I hope you've finished typing. So. How do you blog? It is easy. Get a blog. Start. Don't stop. End of talk! I want to say it's more complicated than that, but it isn't. Start something, and then don't stop. We are going to talk about all three of these things. How to get a blog, how to start and not stop.

So, the first thing is where are you going to blog? Don't — if you're brand new to blogging, don't buy a domain name just yet. Go to WordPress, Medium, or something else, and start there. That is a nice low-stress way to kick things off. If it turns out that Medium is not for you, great. Move your posts to WordPress. If you don't like that, move to somewhere else. It's fine. Start somewhere. Pick one, it doesn't matter which, and go for it.

Now, I know we've got a few technologies and coders. No, no, I know what you're thinking, oh, I could write my own blogging engine. Just don't! What will happen is you will get part way there, publish a blog post saying I've written my own blogging engine, and then publish your second, where writing a blogging engine is really hard. We see this all the time.

Pick something, use that, and write about stuff other than writing a blog engine. Maybe in a few years' time, then you can go off and do what you like, but no. No. Just don't do it.

So what are you going to blog about? This is a tip I've picked up from Simon Wilson, I recommend you find his blog. It's called TIL — "today I learned" — and I promise you you've learned something today. Every single day is a school day. Write a short snippet about I didn't know that ... if you type this command, it does that. I didn't know that when you install this, that happens.

These little things might not be new to everyone in the world, but they're new to you, and you being able to explain concisely what you did, what happened, why it happened, is fantastic.

Other people will search, find it, and they will become enlightened too. If you fix someone, a one-line bug fix, speak about it, saying we found this problem, and we fixed it.

If you were at Kimberley's talk just before, talking about mistakes, that's fantastic. I made a mistake, and this is how I fixed it. It makes you look good but it also helps other people who in a panic time I don't know how to fix this thing.

They find your blog post. Done. If you've read a good book, had a good meal, or saw a good show, tell people about it. It is nice to share the things you like. If you dislike something, got a rant in you, that's great. Go for that as well. As I said, it is night and cathartic and a good way to express your frustration and hopefully find people give you constructive solutions as well.

So going to take another break. These are some random titles for block posts I found around the web. Say if you think these are good titles, or bad titles. Would they make you read this blog post or would you ignore it? I'm going give you a clue to one of them.

Seven reasons why women can't programme in Rust. That's not only a bad title for a blog post, it's a bad idea for a blog post. Don't write inflammatory nonsense, misogynistic rubbish. Be positive in what you're doing. It's fine to have a little rant but don't get personal on people. Just take a look at those. Tell me whether you like them, whether you don't like them, how you would rewrite them. Okay. I'm going to move on.

By the way, a couple of nice come from my blog posts. I would be interested to see if you like them or not. Interesting. It's fine to write — I don't want to say it is fine to write clickbait but fine to write a title for a blog post — I think we are stick and tired of the top ten reasons why ... number seven will shock you.

It is a bit clichéd, but it is okay to ask a question in a blog post, to grab the reader's interest to bring them in. So, how do you maintain enthusiasm? You've been blogging for a bit, how do you get over that bit where you just go oh, my brain is empty. I've got nothing left to say.

This is what I do. Some work for me. They might work for you. The first is have a schedule. I like to write every single day. I carve out a little time where I write. I don't always publish every single day, but a little bit of time where I can sit down, type out my thoughts, and I can look over it, and go that is a brilliant book, the best thing I've ever written. Have a theme.

Theme Friday. Every Friday, you will post about a good book that you read. Authors love it when you share reviews of their books. Great, do that. NaBloPoMo, it is National Blog Posting Month, every November, people around the world commit to publishing one blog post per day which sounds expense and it is, but it is a good way to get you into the habit of doing things. You don't need to wait for November.

If you want a community around, that is a good time to start. Be curious. Stay curious about all the things you're doing. If you find something else on someone else's blog, or on the internet, and you think that's interesting, write a bit about it. Say I found this thing, and I think it's interesting because, here it is. By the way, here are my other thoughts on it. Just work out what it is that makes you interested, because the chances are someone else is going to be interested to.

Promoting your work is a great way to maintain enthusiasm. So, go on to social media, and your Facebook, LinkedIn, and go on to Slack and Discord, say I've written something and I would love to you read it and share it. Friends will. It doesn't take much effort to hit the repost button.

People will have a read and tell you what they like or don't like about it. It is great seeing people come in and seeing people share stuff, and it's great asking for feedback as well. You can ask for feedback after the blog post. Especially if you've written something long or complicated, send it on to a friend first.

Say I've written something, can someone have a read of it before I publish it. Just to make sure that it is spelled correctly, haven't said something daft. That is a great way to get enthusiasm because people will say this is really good because you need to make a change here and that hopefully will spur you on. This is the most important thing. Do not wait around for inspiration. Don't do it. If you see it if you think I'm going to wait until the perfect blog post, you're never going to write anything.

You need to start by writing bad blog posts, like artists need to start by making bad art. No-one has a perfect thought and then creates perfection. It just doesn't happen. If you sit around and wait for inspiration, you will get nothing done. The only way to get something done is to do something.

Start writing. Start publishing, start blogging, and over time, you will find that the more you write, the better you get. It's not a mystery. So please don't wait around. I would encourage all of you right after this talk to go to WordPress, or medium, register, and just write something, anything. Put it out there. Tomorrow, write something else. Don't sit around and wait for that perfect idea because it will never come unless you start exercising your critical faculties for writing. So at some point, you're going to get stuck. Maybe it's right at the beginning.

Maybe it's after a few years. These are some tips that I've picked up, and I hope they work for you. I look through my screen shot folder. I'm taking screenshots of things because I've gone oh, that's a little bug. That's interesting. Take a screen shot maybe to share with someone. That's fine. Write a blog post about how I found this interesting bug in this app. I wonder what causes that? Blog post. You've written a tweet or thread and it's got more than four our five shares, turn it into a blog post. Expand it a little. Read a good book? A bad one? Seen a good movie? Tell people about it. Talk to people about what interesting things you talked about it. Based on your preference. Has something happened in the industry? Has Apple released something and has got big implications for your industry? I want to know what you think about that.

Loads of analysts giving their great opinions but you're working with this thing every day, what does it mean for you to have this thing happen to your industry? And have you made something? It doesn't matter if it is great art, if it is a tiny little programme. Share what you made. And share the evolution of what you're making. Don't wait for the finished article, because that will never happen. Just share what you're doing, show off to the world how clever you are, how interesting you are. Are you angry about something?

Very important, not someone, don't write personal attacks on the internet, that's a rubbish thing to do, but if you're angry about something that has happened in the industry, or the way the world is going, write about it tell people what you're thinking about. Get those ideas out. See what you can share. Comments. This is a tricky one. This has been a tricky one. Organising with trolls it like trying to play chess with a pigeon. The thing is, you control your blog. It is up to you to curate a nice community. If someone comes on to your blog post and says you're an idiot and I hate you, and you smell, just delete their comment. You don't even need to publish it. Troll, delete, boom, gone.

You don't need to publish antagonistic things. There is this other phrase that I like which is what is the point of wrestling with a pig? You both get muddy, and the pig likes it. People who want to argue love arguing. You're not going to change their mind in the comments. Just ignore them.

If people leave a nice comment, and say it was interesting, and people might say you're wrong about that, and you're wrong, own that mistake, like Kimberley was talking about earlier. Reply to it be say maybe, maybe not, but you can talk about that kind of things.

Don't publish arguments. Blogging is fun. I want you to have fun. I want people to see the amazing things that you've worked on, and the not so amazing things you've worked on. If you have had a failure, blog about it. If you discovered something that maybe everyone knew but you're brand new to the party, blog about it — tell people.

There is always a new take on something. People are always going to be typing into a search engine, "How do I do?" Hmm. What we want them to do is find not AI-generated nonsense, we want them to find real people who have written real solutions," and I want you to have fun while you do it. I want you to have fun, I want you to share your creations with the world.

One of the things I do, I'm a very vain person. And so I've got a Google alert set up for my name. Every once in a while, I get a ping saying your name was mentioned in this newspaper, and someone else's blog. It's fun seeing the way your work can spread around the world.

I've also got Google alert set up on Google scholar, and bizarrely once in a while, someone will go that blog's interesting, I will cite it in my PhD thesis, or in this academic paper I'm writing. All of a sudden, your name is out there in an academic paper, and that's fun that you can do this.

It is fun to collaborate with people, to share your works in progress, to get comments from them, and I think it's enormously fun to get your thoughts out of your head, on to the screen, and then out into the world.

That's it. That's what I wanted to say. I hope you all have a brilliant time blogging. If you've got any questions, let me know now. If not, find me on the socials. Thanks, everyone. Cheers.