Like everyone, I harbor fantasies about how interesting I am, and if I run into you at the pub, I'll talk your ear off about the places I've been and the things I've done, but if I'm objective about it, none of it is particularly praiseworthy, and it's hardly going to make me stand out to a potential employer. Any attempt to dramatize my life or skills is going to reek of pomposity, even the rare bits that are somewhat unique.
I'm not a designer. I'm not a visual person. Any attempt to fashionably describe myself is going to backfire. My resume is a good overview of my skills and experience, but if I try to turn that into an online portfolio, it's not going to be any more impressive. If I don't keep it up to date, and remodel it constantly to keep up with contemporary fashions, it's going to make me look old and out of touch.
I have an exceedingly common first and last name, so I'm hard for employers to find online. I'm happy about this. I don't want employers scrutinizing my social media presence, as benign as it is. I would never give a potential employer any of my online IDs if they asked.
If you've got something to say or show and you want your own home page, go for it. I don't think most people actually have enough interesting content to warrant it, though, and I'm pretty sure that I don't.
The main goal of my blog was not to be interesting or show off (even though I do include my side projects etc.), but to write about specific issues I managed to solve. As a software developer, I'm googling for problems all the time. 95% of the time I land on StackOverflow or GitHub issues. But it's about those 5% that I find a blog post which really helps me. My goal was to contribute back the same way.
If you don't like to actively maintain a blog, just set up a GitHub repo + GitHub Pages (or even go for plain GitHub Gists). As long as the information can be found via a search engine, it's good enough.
Finally - don't create a blog just because you feel obliged to. It's totally fine as a developer not to have a blog.
YES! So much of our computing-related triumphs come from documentation that other people wrote. Even super basic stuff that no senior developer or sysadmin would dream of asking, that stuff still needs to be written down by someone.
I have a dozen or so Markdown documents of varying sizes that I need to finish, proof and polish before putting them online. I sorely lacking in motivation (and sleep)
I started this file 17 years ago!
This is enough to fill three average sized novels!
One day... I might have a go at weaving a narrative through it.
Each entry is preceded by the date the entry was made, and followed by a reference to the source.
Because I’ve used some of the material multiple times I’m vaguely aware of the overall structure, and I use it as a bit of a knowledge-base.
As an example I’ll probably pop this comment in there later, so some of the materiel is mundane. Some of it seemed profound in the context of my life at the time, but might make less sense years later out of context.
I’ve only ever deleted a handful of entries in that 17 years.
I guess parts of it are a bit like a diary too, but I’ve never been very good at intentionally keeping a diary.
I've been doing this for years (on paper, no less) without knowing that it had a name.
Edit: Here's an article that gave me some good ideas about different things to do with my book.
Commomplace book - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commonplace_book
That's what they all say.
Humans are social creatures and the main motivator for anyone to do anything in public is to "show off" or "be interesting". "All is vanity".
That isn't necessarily a bad thing. Without a desire to compete, impress, prove our worth and so on we'd be living in huts. But it's something to be aware of and something that should be tempered.
I think the pendulum is swinging away from modesty plus self-reflection and towards "people documenting their lives in public".
The part you are correct about is that it is easy to then get wrapped up in how many visitors your blog gets or how many upvotes your answer gets. Those vanity metrics definitely pull on the vanity strings. But, some people definitely do not care about "showing-off" when they put something up online.
If you don't care about showing off then you won't publish anything. People who are actually altruistic won't tell you about their altruism.
This isn't cynicism. The hunger for respect, admiration and recognition is not a bad thing. But it is necessary for people to understand what motivates them. And it is necessary for us to construct a society in which respect is earned by performing actions that are broadly beneficial to that society (as far as we can estimate, anyway).
Today, anyone can broadcast. But that doesn't mean that everyone should broadcast. The old gatekepers weren't perfect but they served a necessary purpose. Who are the new gatekeepers?
My point is that I think your thesis is too cynical. Many people start out writing their blogs or answer questions on public forums with the intent of trying to help other people out. The motivation can be of the form "I solved this problem and I am going to write about it because maybe my solution will save someone else time" rather than "I solved this problem and I am going to write about it so that everyone visits my website and I get famous." Maybe they become more motivated by vanity and blog metrics later on if their blog takes off. But, many people write stuff online with the intent to help others out and not solely out of hunger for respect, admiration and recognition.
> Today, anyone can broadcast. But that doesn't mean that everyone should broadcast. The old gatekepers weren't perfect but they served a necessary purpose. Who are the new gatekeepers?
You lost me here.
In general, there is no such thing as altruism. You always get something out of helping others that keeps you going. Nobody is truly selfless. Altuists are the species which died out long time ago.
I want to agree, but how can we explain near-anonymous StackOverflow profiles who have brilliant answers in them, but no way to identify who the actual person they are?
The fact that everyone ultimately wants peer-approval means we need to create participatory structures in which people are rewarded (with approval) for doing useful things. Stackoverflow is a perfect example of this. People gain karma by answering questions that other people ask.
"Everyone should have a blog" is the opposite of this. It's feel-good nonsense along the lines of "everyone has their own subjective truth and all truths are equal". If we tell everyone to publish it will become near-impossible to find voices worth hearing. It's like saying you should answer every question on stackoverflow whether or not you know the answer.
People see different facets of our identity, only God sees all of them.
In some cases our limited online presence might represent a more authentic version of our 'true selves' than we present in [the rest of] "real life".
>"it will become near-impossible to find voices worth hearing" //
Isn't the OP saying there that we all have a voice worth hearing. You're right that it would be harder to find the voices we could extract the most value from; but realistically that's probably already impossible.
Just like in real life; I'll underwhelm the average sleuth with the amount of badges I have vs. the work I've actually done.
I don't agree here. Perhaps "not everything should be broadcast" might be better?
I would posit that the new gatekeepers are algorithms. For example, Google search algorithms, Youtube recommendations, Facebook news feed Edgerank, etc.
There's a distinction between self promotion and genuine honest expression of who we are, what we presently think is true.
I feel like there is something fundamentally human when people try to do that with each other.
As someone who has actually lived in a hut, I would like you to know that living in huts should not be used as a derogatory example. In fact hut living was the best time of my life and I long to replicate the simplicity and freedom it afforded.
I think that's demonstrably far too broad of a brush. Yes, this is a very common motivator, but it's hardly universal.
Surprisingly the error code drew a ton of traffic compared to anything interesting I could have possibly thought about writing.
Keeping everything on a site that I am in control of eliminates the issues of uncertainty.
(I do answer direct questions on Stack Overflow and such, I just don't keep my accumulated works or investigative notes on third party sites.)
I also like to write about ideas I strung together that I sourced from books, podcasts, and other posts. I followed the same path as OP in regards to blogging in early 2000's then kinds letting my site languish. I have been trying to write a bit more over the last year.
I have found that checking out the analytics on the blog from time to time also helps me guage what topics to write about.
This is the main reason that I keep a personal website.
Who would learn more? The one who searches for answer or the one who answers questions?
I think the greatest value in writing things down is to order and articulate your own thoughts. Certainly in my own case, I never finish a large chunk of articles I start to write simply because during the research I find out I was wrong, or that things are more complex than I thought and I'm no longer sure I'm right.
See my personal website for a post I wrote about that :-) https://arp242.net/weblog/why-write.html
An additional reason is that publishing your thoughts also means people can point out flaws or points you hadn't considered. Maintaining a website is just one way of doing that of course (commenting here is another), but I find it's a pretty effective way.
Yeah! And remember to back it up. I had a blog in the early days when it was all new, and bitterly regret not backing it up properly - 5 years of content gone.
That way, I always have an offline copy without having to remember to make one specifically.
That said, it's needless verbiage, and removing "at the start" made the paragraph better.
Blogging for me isn’t about popularity. It’s about being able to share ones ideas and document your interests. I send links to my blog all the time, because I wrote about topics I found challenging / fun. I don’t think it’s the best, but it is my own thoughts.
Speaking of which... I’ve written about learning through storytelling and blogging.
I used to have a blog or two back in the day and two things I noted back then was:
1. If I figured something out that I hadn't found a solution to elsewhere on the net people would find their way to my site. No further SEO necessary. (I don't know if this would work anymore.)
2. Sometimes I would Google  a weird problem and find my own page.
: yep, that's what I did until three years ago or so)
FTR I never made any money on this. It wasn't that popular.
Also I recently started writing again at https://erik.itland.no just to contribute some stupid posts like those you'd find on the old web I used to like. Hopefully I can start adding some links to stuff I like to read as well, and deliberately not add any dum nofollow or other stupid CEO. My wesite, not Googles :-]
Could we have a tread were everyone who wants posts their imperfect personal web sites? Or has there been one and I have missed it?
If we all did we could soon have something really awesome going on.
If there ever was a good time to do this again it seems to be now.
This still works. I wrote about a topic awhile back o help me understand it and when I search for the topic, my post still appears in the search results.
I didn’t write it to get to the top of any search result but for myself so I could understand it. Now when I see the post there, I’m glad that I’m not the only one who benefitted. As other people have pointed out:
Write. Put it out there. Do it for yourself first and not to be popular. If it helps you, it might help someone else. And who knows, someone else might even point out something you didn’t know before.
Hmm... let's call it a Personal Open Document (POD) or something like that.
I took a deep dive at one point into understanding concurrent transaction behavior in MySQL and its ramifications. Probably go back and reference that post about once a month...
I think it's a good idea to have a personal web site. If someone wants to find out more about you, they have a chance of hearing your side of the story: what's interesting to you, what you've shared with the world, and so on. If you only post on Facebook, Twitter, etc., then when those sites disappear or change their terms of service your information doesn't disappear. Do you want those companies in complete control of what others learn about you, or do you want to have some control? There are many former powerhouses of social interaction that have since disappeared, including MySpace, AOL, Google+. But if you own your own web site, you decide if it will remain available, not someone else, and what it will say.
You don't need to be "interesting". Everyone is probably interesting to someone anyway, and I think that's the wrong thing to strive for. Instead, think of things that you could share that might be useful to someone else, and share them. If you've helped someone else, then you've provided value to the world, and that's all anyone can ask for.
There's no requirement that you keep everything "up to date". Put a date on what you release, modify it if you update, and that's that. If it was released 20 years ago, it'll make the time clear. And really old stuff can still be really useful.
I just Googled myself, and my home page returns the top rank to me. Sure, it might not to others, but clearly it's possible to be easily findable even with a somewhat common name.
Regarding "enough interesting content"... you don't need to have a lot of interesting content. Post at least one thing that you believe helps at least one other person. Now your site has value to someone else. To me, that's enough.
I disagree. Your thoughts on this topic have gone to the top of HN. To me, that implies you're interesting enough to be able to write thoughtful pieces that a bunch of other online armchair commentators agree with and upvote :)
Don't sell yourself short, friend!
Even some of the most well known writings in computer science are just that, like the short article by some guy frustrated with everyone using goto instead of functions/while/for/etc (the article that inspired countless "... considered harmful" headlines).
Turns out a few things I've written about have actually been very helpful and useful to a handful of other people in the world, and they even emailed me to thank me for sharing it! That was pleasant. I'm not looking to be famous or popular, but it felt good knowing that something I had done helped a few other people out.
 My styles are based on this: https://github.com/programble/writ
It's basically Web 1.0 but made to look nice and read well on large screens.
I'm a UX designer in my professional life but the last thing I wanted was a slick, trendy, bloated site. My site is completely static and loads blazingly fast. The CSS is simple too so it should play nice with user-agent styles too.
Isn't that good UX design? Or are fast-loading sites a taboo in the UX field?
It certainly is!
> Or are fast-loading sites a taboo in the UX field?
Pause for a moment on this one. Why would it go out of date?
The oldest content currently listed on the front page of my website is from 2005. What is in it has not gone out of date in the slightest. In fact, nothing from the intervening fourteen years has gone out of date. I could probably dig back through archive.org and pick out some more from sites I had back in the 1990's that would still be perfectly good, up to date content today.
If what you're writing is substantive, not gossip, there is no reason to think about it going out of date. Just don't wrap it in a blog format where the structure of the site makes it look like it's going out of date.
I don't write for anyone, or because I think I'm an interesting person. If it help someone, good, but the main purpose is to help myself.
I don't really write a lot and I don't think I should write on regular basis. I just write when I need it.
Of course you might not feel the need of doing that, but having that tool helped me a lot personnaly and professionnaly.
Instead, I just send pictures of the stuff to those closest to me via SMS or other social networks, and call it a day. I don't need the whole world to know about my personal interests.
If I decide to try to make money from any of those hobbies, then I would start a blog or portfolio for that, but that'd be business, not personal.
Writing HN comments is much easier than writing blog posts because the inspiration is the story that's been linked to; for a blog post you don't have that starting point, you just have a blank page. That's a heck of a barrier for most people when they're starting out.
 I know. I did it on purpose.
It's incredibly hard to search HN comments via search engines too, but I've definitely come across comments that just made me stop and think.
My wife and I are fairly boring people. I'm a sysadmin and fill-in sales rep at work, she works for the local government. Our hobbies are run of the mill; she reads and reviews the books she's read, I tinker with embedded computing projects and niche operating systems, and in the past have written (but not published) short fiction.
She maintains a review blog she started a few years ago when she wanted to connect better with the authors and fellow reviewers she was in contact with on Facebook and Twitter. It has taken off as far as such sites can, and while it takes up a ton of her free time after work and on weekends, we balance with time together as well. She makes absolutely no money from it (she hates the idea of ads on her site) and honestly I agree with her; she would feel like it was a second job if she tried to monetize it. Still, she does it because she enjoys the back-and-forth she gets with authors, and she often gets to meet some of her personal heroes in real life at conventions and release parties. I'd say having a personal website has helped her feel fulfilled outside of a boring day job and I'm all for it, even though it means less time spent doing things together. It makes that time together even more precious and fulfilling.
Oh, and as for me...I did start a writing blog several years ago but writing fell to the wayside and I haven't posted anything in a couple of years. I've thought about ditching that altogether and blogging about embedded projects instead, but I have more fun doing the hobby itself than I would writing about it. I'm not a very social person and I don't have any social media accounts (unless this site and my sporadic activity on OSNews counts), and overall I feel I'm a pretty boring guy outside of niche circles. I'm also not job hunting nor am I in a hiring role at work, so I don't feel the need for my info to be out there.
This is a real problem.
I tend to always have at least one hobby project going on that I know would be of interest to a wide group of people (such as the smartphone I'm currently building).
However, I don't like to document the projects as I go along, because it makes the project more difficult and time-consuming to accomplish, and I start to feel pressure to make sure that I'm providing regular updates -- which turns the hobby into a sort of job.
Instead, I prefer to document dump all my notes and sketches, and put the code and schematics up, after I've completed the project entirely. This means that I don't have a great deal of "work in progress" photos and the like, and that my post is not useful for people who want to see the process of development itself, but it's a compromise that works for me.
There was a writer (sorry, forgot who), that used to say: it's not that your life is not interesting, it's that you don't have a good storyteller to tell it.
Good storytellers can spin up a great story out of seemingly very boring facts. It's just the way you tell it.
Most youtubers/streamers/influencers are not really saying anything particularly cool or interesting, but they know how to tell it to their audience.
It's very similar to marketing/product. You need a decent product to sell, but most of the success will come from being able to properly market it, not from how good the product is.
In this case, you and your experiences are the product, the stories about them and how to tell them are the marketing.
You can definitely learn how to tell better stories.
One last analogy, you know when someone tells a joke and it's just not funny at all? Then your hear someone else tell exactly the same joke, but now it's actually really funny? The difference is not the joke, but they way they tell it.
As you implied, that's kind of like a secret weapon. No bored middle manager can Google you and not hire you because they didn't like the wording of a DIY forum post about your plumbing 9 years ago.
If you think yourself less interesting than you seem, then perhaps being less known and is a better option :)
Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.
For topics I'm an expert at, or at least an old timer, I'm well aware I'm worse at teaching those topics than someone who more recently learned and I wouldn't even bother trying to document or teach that stuff.
Find your edge, push a bit beyond it, chmod a+r your notebook, more or less.
Granted that most people's lives don't serialise down well into a regular stream of weekly episodes. If one can put aside the requirement to "be someone" on the internet, I think maintaining a personal site can be a really great form of self expression, albeit with a few provisos.
That said, I wonder if the things I find interesting, smart, or well articulated are thought of that way by the author.
If the author knows it and I don't, maybe the author thinks it's obvious where I find it surprising.
That, or you might feel pressurized into finding some interesting hobbies or pastimes. The horror!