You should start a blog. If you disagree, I certainly understand the hesitancy. I was once like you! I’m here to convince you otherwise. I’ll start with a short tale about the inception of shellsharks and the unsuccessful blogging attempts which preceded it.
I started the shellsharks site in mid-2019. At that time, I had but two ideas for topics to write about - a “Getting Into Infosec” guide and an idea to catalog all of the “named” vulnerabilities (e.g. “Heartbleed”). Prior to 2019, I tried at least two other times to blog or otherwise “write”, both of which fizzled out before I got to a second post. At the time, I blamed this on the usual reasons - not enough time, didn’t know what to write about, couldn’t find my “niche”, etc… What I failed to realize then are a number of things I fully appreciate today, and I’d like to share those with you. Let me start with what not to worry about when starting a blog…
What Not To Worry About
In this section is a list of common concerns & fears people have when faced with the thought of starting a blog. Many of these slowed me down in the beginning but I am here to tell you, don’t worry about it!
I don’t know how to host a blog : This is an easy fix and it is only a Google search away! You have plenty of options too, with varying degrees of complexity. Sites like Medium can make it easy to get started, WordPress is incredibly popular and has plenty of advanced functionality as well as for-beginners templates and tutorials, and GitHub Pages (which I personally use) can help you host a blog directly out of a GitHub account! There are countless other means too. The important takeaway is that it is easy to start, you need only contend with overchoice.
I don’t know which blog hosting provider is best : This is a classic road block. You know you want to start a blog but get bogged down in picking the best hosting provider or the best of whatever else. Don’t sweat this too much. Do a little research and pick one that fits most of your needs. If you need to change to a different provider, it’s easy enough to do. Focus more on getting to the point where you can actually publish content. In the end, your content is mostly text and images, this can be ported anywhere.
No one will read my blog : Will you become a well-known blogger? Statistically speaking, probably not. Will someone read what you put on the Internet? Statistically speaking, absolutely! The Internet is vast, and even the most remote corners are accessed. But you don’t have to write for anyone else. Write for you! Your experiences matter and documenting them for your own historical purpose is a good enough reason to start. I had similar concerns when I started my site but I have found, over time, that people are interested. People will inevitably find and read what you have to say. People will even eventually comment or give you feedback! That feedback may also even be positive! Whether people read it or not is inconsequential. There are plenty of benefits regardless.
I don’t have anything to write about - You write about what you are interested in, working on or generally doing. Unless you are interested in / working on / doing NOTHING, you will always have material!
What I publish will be bad or uninteresting : This could only possibly be true if you write about something that no one else is interested in or that no one else is working on something related to. In a world with close to 5 billion Internet users, I doubt you are writing about anything that is THAT niche. In other words, there are like-minded folks out there. They want to read what you have to say. If you’re worried you aren’t a strong writer, don’t worry, you can get better. Everyone starts somewhere. Say what you want to say in the way you say it.
I have nothing novel to contribute : I write mostly about infosec topics. You know who else does that? Lots of people. Like, so many people. It didn’t deter me, nor did it deter all of those awesome creators. It shouldn’t deter you either. Even if it’s been said before, it hasn’t been said in the way you’re going to say it. People benefit from different perspectives on the same thing. People also benefit from the same perspective on the same thing.
I don’t have a niche : You don’t need one! Write about whatever you want, as broadly as you want. Sure, some may advise that by writing across a broad range of topics you run the risk of alienating some of your potential readership that would only be interested in your core topics. This may be true, but the way I consume content from blogs is by scrolling through a feed of blogs I follow - if the post looks interesting to me, I read it. Otherwise, I scroll past. In other words, unless I am absolutely spammed with content unrelated to what I am interested in, I wouldn’t unsubscribe from a blog which had previously posted content I was interested in. I’ll add that people in general have broad interests. If you write broadly, you will reach a larger audience. I for example write about infosec, non-infosec-tech stuff and life in general!
I’m not an expert : You don’t need to be. A lot of people aren’t “experts”. That perspective is not only valuable, it’s also more relatable. You don’t need to pass yourself off as the authority on a subject. Simply explain who you are, what your experience is and then write about your topic from your perspective. You will likely find that people can learn more from someone who is in a similar situation as them then from some expert who might not understand how a non-expert thinks.
What if I say something incorrect or it isn’t written perfectly? : Perfection is the enemy of productivity. Don’t worry about being flawless, and don’t sweat the times you are incorrect. With any luck, someone will call you out on something you post that’s wrong and you will have a chance to learn from that mistake and you can update the post at that time! No one knows everything, not even the big names in your given industry or field. It’s ok to be wrong, and it’s also OK to change your mind, update/fix your content, etc…
I don’t know if I can post regularly : You don’t have to post every week. You don’t have to post every month. Just post when you have something to write about. Which as I’ve mentioned before should be somewhat regularly as you are likely doing something or working on something that you could write about! It’s also perfectly acceptable to post something that is a work-in-progress, and add to it in increments as you work on finishing the complete piece.
So Why Blog?
OK, so hopefully some of your common fears have been allayed. Now let’s get into the reasons why I, and the reasons why YOU should start a blog. I should accentuate the fact that each of the items listed below I actively benefit from, and you can too!
It gives meaning to the time you spend on things : Too often, I work on things which seemingly have a very trivial or only an incremental effect on my life or on my job. These efforts typically go unnoticed, unappreciated and/or undocumented. Instead of losing it to time, why not document what you did, how you did it, what you learned, etc…? In this way, it can serve as a historical record to be shared, to be remembered, to be referenced and to serve as a testament to the valuable time you spent on it.
It can help you remember how you did something : Let your blog be a reference for yourself. In my career, and in my life, I have forgotten a lot of what I have learned. If I had taken the time to document these things, in my own way, with my own context, I’d have the best possible reference to go back and remember it all.
Documenting can help you retain it long-term : Similar to the point above, the simple act of documenting/writing things will help you retain that knowledge long-term. Worst case scenario though, if you do end up forgetting, you have it documented!
It can look good on a resume or as part of a professional portfolio : Having a place where you document your research and other work can impress current or future employers. This will supplement your resume by speaking to the skills and experience you claim you possess.
It can help you network : Ultimately, when people do read your material, they may reach out to you. In those moments, you have an opportunity to make a meaningful connection either personally or professionally.
Your content can help someone : If you’ve learned something, chances are, you aren’t the only person in the world who didn’t know that thing. Which means, someone else out there can benefit from what you learned and how you learned it.
It can trigger other bursts of creativity and productivity : As you write and as you create, you are likely to find new ideas, based on your previous or current ideas, will materialize. Good begets great, inspire yourself!
You will likely learn more by creating : Some say the best way to learn is to teach. By teaching, or in this case, by documenting what you learn or what you are working on in such a way that it is consumable by others than yourself, you will in that process learn the material in a more robust way. In other words, for you to confidently teach something, you need to know it very well. So learn to create, create to teach and then teach to learn!
It can help create a social/professional identity tied to YOU rather than where you work : What I mean here is, you can market yourself through your site rather than through something like Linkedin, Twitter or (*grumble*) your resume. Linkedin is focused on your job, this makes it hard to decouple your identity from your place of work. Twitter constrains you to short bursts of thought, limiting your range and depth. Your resume is the worst offender! It boxes you in to just a few pages where you hope to explain your professional worth. A website you own and control allows you to fully document and share who you are, what you can do, what you have done, etc…
It’s fun! : I’m not saying having a blog isn’t work, it is. But work can be fun. Especially when it’s done at your own pace and leisure. I personally get a lot of enjoyment out of maintaining my site.
It can turn into something more : Who knows, your innocent, low-volume, professional-_ish_ blog could turn into something more. Maybe it becomes popular, maybe you can monetize it, maybe it will yield business opportunities, there is a lot of potential. This potential remains untapped unless you try.
With All That Said
It does take time : No surprise here, but yes, writing takes time. I personally feel the time it takes to document something is worth it though, given all the benefits.
You may get wrapped up in it : What I mean is, you may end up spending more time than you had originally thought you would. This is both good and bad! I think it is a really productive and healthy outlet, but you need to be conscious of your other time commitments.
You should put care and diligence into what you post : Though I have said that your material doesn’t need to be perfect, you still need to take care to post accurate and quality material. Ultimately, this will keep your brand in a healthy state.
So that’s my pitch. Tons of people do it. You can do it. Your perspective is valuable. The benefits are immense. You should start a blog.
So are you convinced? I’d love to hear about it! Let me know your blog idea or share your URL with me. If its an infosec-related blog, I’ll even add it to my collection! Still not convinced? I’d like to hear about that too. Thanks for reading!