Adding to the swarm of developer blogs since 2007

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Blog Post Mark II

Wow, 2007.

So it has been a while since this was updated; and yes I know it's pretty standard to say that but we're going on 3 years here so bear with me.

What has happened in all this time? Well PixelRPG ran out of the traditional developer resources (willingness to write mounds of boilerplate code) and is stalled pending further time and energy.

So where does that leave me? Well I'm working for a little company called Northrop Grumman and in doing so get to work with some talented folks writing software to display and manipulate some pretty big images. How big? Well I will say that our software has managed to load a 17 gigabyte file and display it at interactive framerates. I'll touch on some of the interesting things that can be done when you can't load an image into memory in a future post.

So lets get down to the motivation for this entry: blogs. I've noticed in my blogspace (blogsphere? blogodome?) traversals that there is some art to posting interesting and informative blog posts some people get, and some don't. You have people like Joel who may not post often but really truly put that extra effort in to make sure their post is fun to read and poignant. On a different side of the coin, you see people like Raymond who have an enormous backlog of posts coming at you every (work)day that are informative but not always fun. On the third side of our bizzare blog-coin you see the people that don't manage to nail the fun or the informative portion (I'm going to avoid naming names here but I think we've all see couple of these).

That said, here's what I've seen as important points to make a great blog:

  • Talk to your strengths: The classic advice given for speeches applies doubly so when people have time to really think about your posts. I've found it enjoyable to read what knowledgeable people have to say about subjects they've studied for ample quantities of time, or even smaller things like new usages for old tricks. Stay away from ranting about things that you clearly have very little idea about (for me, cooking).

  • Analogies are great (sometimes): If you've never had an analogy run away from you, you're probably in the minority of people. Sticking too hard to analogies can leave you trapped in a confusing world where you have robots applying lambda functions to sheep and now you've lost me. This post by Joel is an excellent example of how to set up an analogy effectively without running away with it.

  • Pictures! (or images, if you're a programmer): Images really make reading a blog feel less like a chore. Even pointless block pictures taking up space can exercise the reader's eyes and visually draw their attention down the page. I can't count the number of times I've stopped reading a blog that had Wall 'o Text syndrome.

  • Talk about ME: I'll end this short list with the most important one; we aren't too different, you and me, so use language that is personal and reflects that we're on similar footing. Relate challenges and interesting occurrences to common programmer experiences and issues. Don't just talk about how great your pet project Foo is, let us know how that dynamic event-based DSL parser threw you for a loop when it deadlocked every fifth run. Programmers that have been there can relate and (I would like to think) we appreciate that you are a human and not a marketing robot.

I would like to flesh this list out much more, however I'd need to go back and relive many of the blogging nightmares and that's too much for one work day.

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