What and why?
Here at upday we have a lot of talented engineers doing very interesting “stuff” and using up-to-date (some would even say top-notch) technologies. Doing good is fine, but talking about it is even better. The problem is that not every engineer likes writing about his profession. Often I hear: “this wouldn’t be interesting to anyone else”, “there are already articles about it”, “I don’t have time for this” or “I simply cannot write”. All this might be true. But for me, it’s not enough of an excuse.
Last year we started our upday tech blog to attract more talented people and of course, to get attention in the tech community. This worked out quite well. We received promising applications, a few of us got invited as speakers to international conferences and we also organised well-received meetups. Unfortunately, the driving force behind most of these activities left the company, hired by a much bigger player (another proof our efforts bear fruit). And Since then our blog has been more or less inactive.
This needed to change. But how can one convince people to invest time and energy into something they don’t really like or want to do?
At upday, from time to time we organise Hackathons. During a Hackathon, people work intensely in unusual team formations (often business people also participate), test new technologies and dive into certain topics in order to produce something valuable, interesting or surprising within only a few hours of work. A few of these results have actually found their way into our product. Others were just cool. And some, of course, just sucked.
Our plan now was to “abuse” one of those Hackathons to generate blog posts. The idea of a Blogathon was born. Okay, I know what you might be thinking right now.
Anyway, presenting this idea provoked mixed reactions. Everything from “cool” to “it sucks big time”. But no risk no fun, it’s only painful at the start and attending was optional anyway.
- we announced the Blogathon two weeks in advance
- one week before the Blogathon, we set up an Ideas Board that served two purposes:
- to let people start thinking about possible topics
- to collect topics and trigger the creativity of others
- we had the Blogathon on a Thursday
To make a long story short, our Blogathon was quite a success. We ended up with 8 finished or nearly finished articles covering topics from tutorials to personal insights from our daily business. You will be able to read the best of them in our upday tech blog during the next few weeks.
To finally publish them, all articles have to pass a quality gate. We are used to challenging ourselves in terms of high standards so why shouldn’t this apply to our written output as well?
These are the finishing steps to get a blog post out on the street:
- finish your article to the point you are happy and proud of it
- let one or two peers review it for clarity (this might be an iterative process)
- let a native speaker review it
- clone and create a branch of our blog repository
- add your article (Markdown)
- optimise the layout, give it a readable structure, emphasise important passages and add keywords
- give your article a final review
- merge the branch and publish it
Everybody can write and everybody should! Sharing thoughts or findings with others is rewarding. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Writing also serves as a good reflection on what you have achieved. It might also inspire others or merely put a smile on someone else’s face. Of course it requires work and time but it is also fun and satisfactory. It is not unlikely that you will actually help someone else with exactly the piece of information he or she were desperately looking for.
For us this Blogathon was a success. As I mentioned before, only in the beginning it hurt, but just a little bit. I’m convinced we are now motivated enough to produce blog posts more regularly and with the knowledge that “I’m able to do it because I already did” and “You Do Have Something To Say!” gave a lot of drive and confidence to everyone involved.
We will have another Blogathon for sure sometime.