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Blogging Rule#1: Be Useful

I love stumbling upon new networking-focused blogs. Many of my old friends switched to the dark side vendors and stopped blogging, others simply gave up, and it seems like there aren’t that many engineers that would like to start this experiment.

One of the obvious first questions is always “what should I write about” and my reply is always “it doesn’t really matter – make sure it’s useful.”

That was too easy. Let me rephrase it: make sure it’s useful to your audience (whoever the audience is).

The audience might be yourself in the not-so-distant future. Some people love to publish their study notes or their configuration tricks, and if someone stumbles upon them and finds them useful, you get extra karma points.

Just make sure everything you publish is technically correct and doesn’t contain obvious spelling/grammar errors, because your future employer might decide to check you out before hiring you, and a brain dump full of obvious gotchas doesn’t reflect well on you, does it?

It’s also really easy to start blogging if you turn the “let’s start blogging” challenge into “let’s document what I just did because I don’t trust my long-term memory”

Other people try to do blatant promotion of themselves, their employers or their products. I won’t waste any more bits on them.

Finally, there are people trying to make an impact or send a message. I love reading those blog posts as long as they adhere to rule#1. Always try to answer a simple question: why would someone invest their time into reading what you wrote? Give them something they cherish – be it a hint, an insight, a war story, an alternate perspective, or challenge their beliefs. In short: be useful.

Need more advice?

Tom Hollingsworth wrote a number of blog posts on blogging (is that meta-blogging?):

I’m also positive you’ll find something useful on Ethan Banks’ blog and then there’s the book with the notorious title.

10 comments:

  1. Blogs is one of my main resources for finding writing on technology and configuration examples which very often surpass the vendors own writing in quality.

    Every now and then I find something and I go "Wow, I can't believe I haven't found this resource before" because the writing is so good. There are some hidden gems out there which stay hidden because they probably don't rank well in search results or the author is not on Twitter etc.

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  2. Thanks Ivan for this post, I was thinking about this today and I found your post.

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  3. There are a million and one blog posts about all sorts of networking topics. I started my own humble blog (with just nine posts so far) with content that I felt I haven't been able to find else where on the Internet and something that I hope fellow network engineers are able to find useful.

    http://blog.salmannaqvi.com

    I am pretty much using it as a repository of unique and interesting items that I've come across or have been working on. Trying to stick to the 'be useful' mantra. No point replicating what others have already done as that's not productive or useful.

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  4. Totally agree with your points.

    I started mine when I was studying for CCIE R&S back in 2011.
    Unfortunately/fortunately that time I was vendor-locked by Cisco, but now I'm trying to write more vendor-neutral and share my own understanding and experience with different platforms.

    Soon, I will also start writing about Check Point ;-)

    Feel free to take a look and I definitely appreciate anyone's comment:
    www.1cisco.com

    P.S. I'm looking for a co-author. If anyone is interested, do not hesitate to contact me.

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    Replies
    1. Cool - lots of great configuration examples - well designed and straight-forward instructions. Great blog!

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  5. I have thought about it a few times,- but always come to the conclusion I haven't anything interesting to tell :-)

    I do have 30 years of telecom and networking behind me,- I have fought countless battles, -designing, documenting, troubleshooting, teaching a lot, configuring, a lot of lab work, R&D, ... PABX, PDH, SDH, Sonet, WDM, all kinds of large ISP cores and customer networks.
    It's all boring me now,- sticks my head more into Linux, programming (mostly Python) and trying out SDN.

    But I'm just a engineer, my story is probably quite boring,- I spare you for another blog,- but you are interesting to follow, always deep thoughts and humor, Ivan :-)

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    Replies
    1. I'm positive you have plenty of stories to tell based on your 30 years of networking. "How a networking engineer gets started with Linux and Python" is probably another good one.

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  6. Hi Ivan,

    I read a lot of great networking blogers online, but you are surely the most persistent one. It's sometimes disturbing to see how much there is. You site is my daily remainder on how little I know about networking even now after few really complicated networking certs :)

    For me blogging started as 100% of “let’s document what I just did because I don’t trust my long-term memory” :)
    I started to take some basic notes online about things that were of most interest to me in time of CCNP studies years ago. It was intended to be for my personal use only, easily available online. After a while, my blog became my main point of reference trough CCIE studies, other were using it too. It was great to see some readers feedback. Now, five years later I still enjoy finding out more about networking and theory behind algorithms that are running in the background. I'm still trying to put the most interesting topics online for myself and others to use. To be sincere, I am probably still my most loyal reader :)

    You can check it out at howdoesinternetwork.com

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    Replies
    1. Very nice. Love the content. Great use of pen-and-paper diagrams. Great layout and overall navigability too!

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