Wednesday, 26 November 2014

My 200th Blog Post

Five and a half years ago during a 6 month sabbatical I decided to start a blog. I did a brief retrospective after a year but I’ve not done another one since. Last week I was curious enough to tot up how many posts I’d written so far, and given that it was close to a nice round number, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to have another retrospective and see how things have panned out since then.

Looking back at that first anniversary blog post I can see that not that much has changed in terms of my mission on what I wanted to write about, except perhaps that I’m continuing to live in the C# world and only dabbling in C++ in my personal codebase. I have added some T-SQL projects and PowerShell scripts in the meantime which have also given me a wider remit. In fact my PowerShell blog posts are the ones most read according to Google Analytics.

I’m still mostly using my blog as a knowledge base where I can document stuff I’ve not obviously found an answer for elsewhere, but more recently I’ve branched out and started to write posts that cover my journey as a programmer too. Many of them are my various fails, such as “Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Varargs” and “A Not-So-Clever-Now String Implementation”, which is my way of showing that we all make mistakes and they should be nothing to be ashamed of. Those particular examples covered more technical aspects of programming whereas I’ve also started to look at the development process itself, such as in “What’s the Price of Confidence” and “The Courage to Question”. Refactoring has been a heavily reoccurring topic too, as of late. On a few occasions I’ve even dared to air a few more programming-related personal issues to try and give a little more background to what goes on inside my head, see “Haunted By Past Mistakes” for example. I don’t suppose anyone is really interested, but it acts as a nice form of therapy for me.

What was amusing to read back in that first anniversary post was the section about how I was planning to write something about unit test naming conventions, but I ended up ditching it because I discovered I was way off the mark. That post eventually did get written, but only last month! As you’ll see in “Unit Testing Evolution Part II – Naming Conventions” and the follow-up “Other Test Naming Conventions” this part of my programming journey has been quite bumpy. I’m not entirely sure I’ve reached a plateau yet there either.

My main aspiration was that writing this blog would help me sharpen my writing skills and give me the confidence to go and write something more detailed that might then be formally published. Given my membership of the ACCU I naturally had my eye both of its journals (C Vu and Overload) as an outlet. It took me a few years to get to that position (I had at least written upwards of 20 reviews of books, the conference and branch meetings) but eventually I resurrected an article I had started just over 3 years earlier and finally finished it off.

That article was accepted for the February 2013 issue of Overload. Since then I’ve started an occasional column in C Vu called “In the Toolbox” and have written many other articles for both C Vu and Overload on both technical and non-technical matters. A few of those even started out life as a blog post which I then cleaned up and embellished further. A few months back I felt I had reached the point where I had enough content to require a couple of blog posts to summarise what I’d published so far: “In The Toolbox - Season One”, “Overload Articles - Season One” and “C Vu Articles - Season One”.

Confidence in writing has undoubtedly led to a confidence in presenting too, by which I mean that at least I feel more confident about the content I’m presenting, even if my presentation style is still rather rough around the edges.

The last thing I noted in my first anniversary post was a quip about not looking at the stats from Google CropperCapture[5]Analytics. Well, if the stats can be believed, and I’m not altogether convinced how accurate they are [1], then I’m definitely well into double figures now. In fact quite recently the number of page views rocketed to the tens-of-thousands per month. This appears to coincide with a blog post I published about my dislike of the term Dependency Injection (See “Terminology Overdose”) and it got a much wider audience than normal via some re-tweets from a couple of prominent programmers. The graph on the right shows the number of page views per month over the time my blogs been active. Obviously a page view does not constitute a “read” but if nothing else it shows that my content is not stuck at the bottom of the search engine results pages. Hopefully some of those “hits” will have resulted in someone finding something useful, which is all I really aspire to.

I decided to use WC on my collection of blog posts, which I get emailed to me whenever I publish them, to see how many words I’ve written in the last five and a half years. The original result seemed way too high as I know that even my longest posts still come in under 1,500 words. In turned out Blogger started sending me a multi-part email with both a plain text and an HTML version in it some months after I’d started. A quick application of SED with an address range to pick out just the plain text versions gave me the more believable sum of ~148,000 words. Based on that, each post is ~740 words long which sounds about right. I had hoped to write more, smaller posts, but I seem incapable of doing that - as now demonstrated…

So, what does the future hold? Well, I still have 77 blog post titles sat in the backlog, so I reckon there is still plenty of content I probably want to explore and I’m sure the backlog is grower quicker than I’m writing which feels healthy for a budding author. Moving teams and projects every so often always seems to generate new thoughts and questions and therefore I expect more to come from that. The one concern I did have was that starting to write more formal articles would mean I spent less time blogging, but I don’t think that’s been the case. My blog will definitely continue to be the place for ad-hoc content and for musings that I have yet to form into a more coherent piece.

See you again in a few years.


[1] The Google stats indicate a steady stream of page views from May 2006, but my blog wasn’t even started until April 2009!

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