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Blogging For Engineers

Blogging For Engineers
If you’re going to start a blog, do it for yourself.

This week I learnt that professionals blogging within the construction industry has become enough of a thing for there to be paid courses on the subject. This can only be a good thing. As I am a professional with a relatively successful blog, I thought a post sharing my experience and lessons learned might well be of interest…

Before I begin though- I honestly believe that if more engineers took the time to blog and share what they’re doing with the world, the profession would be much easier to engage with. So if you want to know more, need any help, or just want to promote what you’re doing- feel free to send me an e-mail.

Rule One

If you’re going to start a blog, do it for yourself. I have received the odd compliment or two, enjoyed the thrill of going viral once or twice, and even been interviewed because of it- but blogging takes so much more than it gives; and if you can’t do it because you enjoy it for what it is, then you’ve set yourself up for a fall.

You also need to decide if you’re going to write as yourself, or anonymously. The latter is much harder, and probably only worth it if you’re going to be doing some whistle-blowing. If you’re being yourself- having a look at your employer’s policy; if they don’t have one, or it’s needlessly restrictive, I’d recommend trying to hammer out something before, or soon after, you start. As a side note, Being Brunel isn’t anonymous, I just didn’t want the focus to be about me as a person.

First Steps

Taking the view that you’ve already decided to start blogging, the next step is to decide what to write about. For me, it was clear that the world had enough prominent engineers exchanging rhetoric without me attempting to join in; so I opted to try a more off-beat tact. As a good rule of thumb, I’d say try and write articles that you would actually enjoy reading.

Just jot down ideas for posts, as and when they come; remember, not everything you write need be pro- found or game-changing.

Once you’ve got a vague notion of what you’re going to write, you’ll need a platform. I unequivocally recommend WordPress, which offers simple and free hosting for your blog; making it quick and easy to start writing. At this point you’re going to have to think of a name. Top tips; keep it short and simple, and- if you’re feeling optimistic about the future, have a look on the likes GoDaddy to make sure that no one else owns www.[your-site-name].com already.

The first post is the hardest. Hypocritically, I’d say that you should avoid starting your blogging career with a post about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Do keep it short though- you don’t want to burn out too early. I’d also recommend you just get your head down and write it, leave picking themes, changing the layout, writing an ‘about me’ page and all the other superfluous site-setup tasks for now.

Don’t Stop Believing

I might say it jokingly, but I honestly believe the secret to any success I have has come from making a commitment to write a post once every week. The structure is compulsive; making it much harder to abandon or neglect your blog. If you don’t believe me, check online- the world is full of first-post blogs, or those updated in sporadic ‘new year resolution’ fits of activity, only to be abandoned for another two years.

Oddly, I’d also say wait until you’ve written about four posts (that’s a month on my schedule) before you start to tell people about the blog.

When it comes to knowing what to write, I tend to just jot down ideas for posts, as and when they come, in the back of my diary; remember, not everything you write need be profound or game-changing. I’ve also learnt not to underestimate the amount of time it takes to write a post; when I started I had visions of doing weekly design guides, but I’ve found these are the sort of things that need a few weeks to pull off. Typically I have two posts on the go at any one time; the one for the week, and the ‘big-one‘ for a few weeks time.

Oddly, I’d also say wait until you’ve written about four posts (that’s a month on my schedule) before you start to tell people about the blog. By then you should have hopefully found a rhythm, a bit of a voice, and a vague idea of where you’re going. Now is the time to maybe pretty-up your layout, find a theme, write a heart-felt “about me” page and all that jazz.

Getting Serious

When it comes to making the world aware that you’re now blogging, I found Facebook helpful in my formative months, then LinkedIn (especially if you target groups), followed finally by Twitter- which requires a more significant investment, but is worth it (if only to see what great work other people are doing) when you’re up and going.

After a few months, once you’ve got a feel for it; it might be worth taking your blog a bit more seriously. Consider buying a domain (www.[your-site-name].com), and self-hosting. Migrating from WordPress.com to your own server is easy to do, and gives you the flexibility to use more professional themes and powerful plugins (honestly, I’m not on commission).

Finally, I thought I’d end with a few “tricks of the trade”: Displaying related posts helps people browsing your site to find other articles that might also interest them; the more advance layouts on Being Brunel are done using shortcodes, which are easy enough to write; and Flickr is a wonderful source of free (Creative Commons) images.

Now get blogging!

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  1. Great to see this issue getting more attention 🙂 Hope it will help a lot more start sharing their views/experiences of construction. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Gari; It’d be great if there were even half as many construction professionals with blogs as there are cats!

  2. The advice you give is great indeed. As recent a civil engineering graduate that recently started blogging, I think blogging is instrumental in empowering people with the knowledge about the field.

    • Cheers- it’s not difficult to do; although it’s hard to find time. I think the biggest problem is that the industry doesn’t really reward it- in fact, you’re more likely to run into management trying to stop or control a blog than congratulating you for writing it!

  3. Thanks Tom, was inspired by you at IABSE to write a blog. Once a week is serious achievement though!

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