Friday, 30 April 2010

Happy Birthday, Blog

Today sees the anniversary of my inaugural post (An apology to Raymond Chen) on this blog. That seems a highly appropriate moment to reflect and see if it’s turned out the way I hoped…

As I mentioned back in July, when my first two reviews were published in the ACCU Journal, I’ve found writing difficult, largely I guess because I’m out of practice. Writing this blog has certainly made a dramatic improvement to the speed at which I write. For example, last year my review of the ACCU 2009 Conference took me days to write – and I was on my sabbatical at the time! This year I did it on the train during my commute in a matter of hours. Ok, so I’ve not been one of those prolific bloggers that rattles out a piece every day, but I have tried to write a post a week. I realise that many of my posts are quite lengthy and given that I only use my daily commute as the source of time for it I reckon that’s not too shabby a rate. My commute time already has competition from reading, gaming and maintenance of my freeware codebase so it’s already a tight squeeze.

The one area I certainly didn’t expect to be writing about was C#. I was still a die hard C++ aficionado back in April last year and naturally assumed I’d be writing about C++ issues (if there are any left). It’s funny, but with all that time on my hands during my sabbatical I found it harder to know what to write about, whereas now I’m back working full-time the ideas keep flooding in. Once again I expect that part of it is down to the blogging experience, but I also suspect that I feel more confident about the topics I’m covering. I definitely expected to be sticking to very technical issues such as the recent ones involving WCF, but my current project is both greenfield and using an agile methodology and that has highlighted some very interesting dynamics which in turn has led to a new degree of consciousness about a number of software development issues.

Without a doubt the single biggest contribution blogging has made to me has been the clarity of thought that comes from the fear of “publishing and being damned”. Knowing that the moment I hit the ‘publish’ button my words will be broadcast out onto the Internet for all eternity where potential future employers will be able to see them ensures that I try to remain objective. In the last year there have been two posts that I started to write and ended up canning because I realised they were straw-man arguments. Conversely the mere act of documenting my experiences also leads to new questions that I’ve not considered in any real depth before. I have one post on Unit Test Naming Guidelines that I thought was all done-and-dusted until I met Steve Freeman and Nat Pryce and discovered that I was barking up the wrong tree. No doubt when I come to revise that post at a later date more questions will emerge…

The one thing I haven’t done is look at the stats in Google Analytics. I added a hit counter back at the start, mostly because it was easy, but I never expected anyone to actually read this stuff. The fact that there have been comments submitted (that aren’t just link spam) means that at least a couple of people have bothered to read my musings which is pretty satisfying. Now that a whole year has passed I feel tempted to take a peek and see if the number of hits has reached double figures yet.

Being Author and Editor means that I don’t have that fear of rejection you get with a ‘real’ publication, but I still have that fear of embarrassment to keep me on the straight and narrow. I’m quite contented at present to continue to build up a portfolio of posts that hopefully helps give me that edge we all need to ensure our own survival in the fast changing world of Software Development.

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