If your company really could start an engineering blog on its own, it would have one already. (A blog with three posts and one of them being “Hello World!” saddens me and does not count.) An engineer on the team would’ve made it part of their job, or the company would’ve hired an editor, or something else. Size doesn’t really matter; Incident.io has just over 30 employees, and it runs a decent engineering blog. The Postlight team has been blogging and podcasting since they were really small as well.
Starting an engineering blog sounds simple enough, and it takes a lot of work. People need to want to write and see the value in it. The problem is, there’s a self-fulfilling prophecy with it; when an engineering blog is doing really well—like Netflix’s—engineers are motivated to write because they know they’ll get reach. If an engineer was discovered by O’Reilly through a corporate engineering blog, that’s also an exciting possibility. These things really happen!
By contrast, if a company’s engineering blog is sad or non-existent, it’s a chore, and nobody wants to do it because they already have day jobs. Writing a blog post could easily take 10 hours for a fast writer—for a slow writer, it’ll drag on for 20–40 hours. That’s probably not fun time either for someone unfamiliar with the writing process; they’re uncomfortable letting their idiot play, or perhaps they’re not confident with their command of language and prose.
One solution—amongst others I’m sure!— is to hire glue: a person, or team of people, to work with engineers to make it really easy for them to publish. The glue needs to be qualified and experienced enough to provide story and promotional direction, organized enough to follow up with people and get them unstuck, and collaborative enough to interview people for ghostwriting purposes. That can actually help take everyone’s writing processes down to 2–5 hours, a prospect that opens up more people’s availability to writing.
Here are a couple of examples of glue in action:
Stripe’s former business lead, and Retool’s current head of marketing, Krithika Muthukumar writes (emphasis added):
“We actually didn’t have product managers for a long time at Stripe. For me, it was sitting down with engineers and trying to understand the work that they were doing and what we were trying to build for the users. What was the user-facing benefit we were trying to deliver through this product or feature?
It was pretty challenging to get meetings on the calendar at Stripe because it had a very anti-meeting culture back in the day. I think I had a couple of days where I scheduled five or six coffee walks where I’d walk with the engineer towards the coffee shop and on the way, just pepper them with questions about what they were working on, when things were launching and trying to put together some semblance of a product calendar or a launch calendar for what was coming up next.”
Similarly, Shopify’s engineering editor Anita Clarke writes:
“In the early days, the most important part of Clarke’s job was to get software engineers to write. ‘Developers don’t usually think about sharing their stories and the benefits it brings. I’d keep my eye out for things that I found interesting and let those developers know that they had something valuable to share with the community,’ she says.”
The glue holds an operation together long enough to move things forward; posts gradually start getting published, gaining traction, and making a case for the team to continue writing.
It’s really as simple as that. Someone needs to be willing to be the glue.
If you don’t know anyone willing to do it, you can work with my team!