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Tagged by 'writing'

  • Published on
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    4 min read

    300th Blog Post!

    Hitting the 300th blog post milestone isn't something I could have ever imagined. But here we are. This seems like an ideal opportunity to look back and reflect on how it all started and my journey...

    Where It Started

    The year is 2007. A 22-year-old junior web developer called Surinder decided he wanted to create a blog to primarily serve as a knowledge base of all the things he learned in his career so far. Originally, built in BlogEngine - a nice open-source and lightweight .NET-based blogging platform, he made his foray into the blogging world.

    The very first post published involved a SQL matter that (at the time) he thought was very complex in nature - Implement SCOPE_IDENTITY() in Data Access Layer. It was this very post that started it all and as they say: The rest is history...

    As strange as it may sound, at the very start, my blog was a secret that I hid from my peers. Being a junior developer, I found myself lacking confidence in the very industry I was working in. What right do I have to start a blog and share any technical knowledge when those who I worked with are more experienced than me?

    After three years when I felt more confident in the type of posts my blog contained, I decided to allow search engines to index my content. It was also during this time I moved on job-wise and used my website to give my prospective employer an insight into my capability. It must have worked - I got the job!

    Identity Crisis

    In the early years, my blog had a bit of an identity crisis when it came to its domain name. It started with computing-studio.com, to surinder.computing-studio.com, then isurinder.com and lastly to what it will forever be immortalised as - surinderbhomra.com. The change in the domain name was a result of not wanting there to be an expectation that I will solely be writing about technical-related content and wanted the website to focus more on me as an individual.

    Finding My Writing Groove

    Throughout my time blogging, I've fallen in and out of love of writing and at times hit writer's block. As a consequence, there have at times been gaps in consistently outputting content. I think this is primarily due to taking a very long time to find my feet and finding a voice.

    I can honestly say that it's over the last few years I've finally found my writing groove and figured out the type of content I want to push out. Not only do I enjoy writing about all things technical, but also started garnering a fascination with writing more personal pieces where I’m not bound by any specific subject.

    Writing Is Both A Passion and A Healer

    The driving force after publishing my latest posts is the excitement of thinking about what to write next. This mentality has worked great for me as I know my next post will help me grow whatever the subject is in my next writing endeavour. I no longer feel like writing is a discipline, it's a passion.

    There is something cathartic in pounding the keys of my keyboard to output something that was once a small thought in my head to something of substance. I also found that writing acts as a coping mechanism during times of negativity and stress.

    Cringe Factor

    I do cringe looking back at some of my earlier posts. As much as I'd like to delete these posts, I leave them as they are to act as an anchor to ground me and as a reminder of how far I've come. Through the thirty pages of posts, I can see how I've changed throughout the years and grown as a person.

    In the very beginning writing was a way to make my mark in the world and if I could get some form of monetary gain or high readership for a post, I'd class that as a win. Now that I've matured this has is no longer of relevance.

    Content Syndication

    My strategy now is to make my content accessible to a wider audience by syndicating posts to other platforms. Syndication takes your content to more readers and helps boost organic and referral traffic back to your website. At the moment, I syndicate my content based on the subject matter:

    What I've learnt is that it's all about serving the right content to the right users.

    Imposter Syndrome

    Even now after 15 years of writing, I still suffer from the occasional bout of imposter syndrome where I perceive my skill set as lower than my actual skill set. There will always be someone capable of doing things better and I have to remember this shouldn't be a negative takeaway. Surrounding yourself with such people is an opportunity to learn more and become better at what I do. There have been posts where I received some good constructive criticisms that helped me approach things differently.

    Where Do I Go From Here?

    Blogging is a marathon, not a race. I've written 300 posts over 15 years, equating to 15 posts per year. If my writing groove continues on its current trajectory, this will only increase as long as I feel I have quality content to publish.

    I've noticed there are many posts stored within Evernote that don't make the cut - and this is good thing. Not every thought or idea is worth publishing.

    I hope I can continue to output content in the years to come and with any luck, I look forward to writing a post marking the next 300th blog post.

  • Published on
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    1 min read

    Decision To Cross-post To Medium

    As much as I'd like to retain content on a single web presence, I find there are some posts that don't get much traction. The majority of my posts contain technical content that Google seems to pick up very easily due to relatable key phrases and words that developers in my industry search for.

    However, posts that are less technical in nature and (in my opinion) more thought-provoking lack page views due to the organic nature of how it's written. I believe these posts are more suited to be shared on Medium.

    I get more satisfaction in the posts that speak from my experiences and thought processes, most of which you will find in the Random Thoughts and Surinder's Log categories.

    I've already shared a handful of posts on Medium in the past - my last post was published in October 2018. I still plan on making this site the first place where content is published and then cross-post to Medium as I see fit. Check out my "Technical Blogging: Where Should I Be Writing?" post that details thoughts on the very subject of cross-posting.

    Feel free to checkout my Medium profile here.

  • I've always considered time an enemy as I always had a disdain for how fast the hours and days would just fly by. The speed dial seems to turn a little more further with every year that passes and then one day you wake up and you're the big 3-5!

    Ever since the pandemic hit, time has become an enemy once again but for a different reason entirely... It just goes sooo slow! On top of that how one would normally progress themselves (for business and pleasure) before the pandemic is no longer within our reach. With the combination of living on my own and a somewhat lack of social interactions, you can easily find yourself just letting time pass doing a whole lot of nothing.

    The following quote by Delmore Schwartz, an American poet, resonates with me:

     Time is the school in which we learn,  Time is the fire in which we burn.

    The worst thing I can do is let time pass and have nothing to show for it. There is a need for something tangible to prove my worth over this period to look back on. For me, writing about what I've learnt is something I can use to quantify progress and this very post just adds to that. I am hoping this will be the fuel to focus on cranking out more posts throughout the year.

    I decided to write about the areas in my life that give me the ability to hone my skill set and the process involved.

    The Workaholic

    Most of my learning happens in a work environment as I am constantly allowed to work on upcoming technologies and platforms. This is probably the reason why I’ve become quite the workaholic. I’m lucky to be in a job that is of great interest to me where I can flex my technical muscle. I am constantly learning new things based on challenging client requirements and that in itself plants the seeds on what I need to learn next.

    In the UK, the average working hours per week is 42.5 - above the European average of 41.2. I generally work 45-50 hours a week and that’s not to brag. It’s fun and I genuinely enjoy it. Maybe working from home has also contributed to this. After all, there is nothing else to do in the current climate we find ourselves in.

    So far, this year alone, I've learnt the following within a working environment:

    • Azure Functions
    • Azure DevOps
    • Hubspot
    • Hubspot API Development
    • Ucommerce

    The Daily 30-Minute Cram Session

    Mastering something is just a matter of investing some time no matter how short a learning session is. As minutes become hours and hours become days, it all adds up.

    I have a regiment where my day starts with a quick 30-minute learning session on a subject of interest to me. It’s quite surprising how effective a 30-minute cram session can be. I have progressed through my career and adapted to learning new subjects quicker by doing just this. This has benefitted me in other areas: preparing for meetings.

    There have been numerous times within my job where I have to be in client meetings to talk about platforms that may be a little foreign to me and provide solutions. I now feel relatively confident that I'm prepared for such a meeting within a short period of 30 minutes.

    At the time of writing, my current 30-minute cram sessions are focused on Hubspot development to push the boundaries on what the platform can do and keeping up with Azure’s vast offerings.

    Focus Time

    I have my "30 Minute Cram Session" but when is the best time to do them? I find the most ideal time is the start of a working day where I get to my desk an hour before the working day starts. Normally, this would be impossible pre-Covid times, as this time would be spent getting my things together and making my way to work. Throughout the pandemic, I have continued to get up at my normal time so I can get to my desk by 8 am.

    I find it amazing what this one hour of solitude can give me. I either use to extend a "30 Minute Cram Session" for reading and research or to just get through some tasks before the working day starts. After the pandemic is over and normal life resumes, I hope this can continue.

    Creating A Knowledgebase Through Blogging

    Being the forgetful person I am (just ask my mum!), I find I remember things more when I write about them - one of the main reasons I started this blog. It allows my brain to process big subjects into more digestible chunks. To aid this further, I added Algolia search to my site at the start of the year, as there have been several times where it's taken me too much time to find something I've previously written.

    I have quite a backlog of stuff that I want to write and sometimes I find it difficult to put some technical subjects into words. Believe it or not, I generally find writing a little difficult even after 10+ years of blogging. But I like this challenge.

    My approach to writing blog posts is a little unconventional. I work on a handful at a time. Each post starts in my note-taking application of choice, Evernote,  where I can start things off simple with a subject title, a skeletal structure to then flesh out. I then write in small chunks across various posts.

    Twitter

    I may not post much to Twitter, but I follow people who either work in the same industry like me or those who instil similar interests. The conversations that are had on the platform open my eyes to other areas I should be looking into. As a result, this breaks the monotony of approaching something I've been doing the same for so long and try a different approach. It was tweets that got me into seeing the power of Azure Functions and provided an alternative way of running a piece of code on a schedule effortlessly.

    Ongoing List of Ideas

    Along with my pile of "in progress" blog posts to write, I also have a to-do list of potential things I want to work on. It could be random things of interest based on what I see day-to-day.

    For example, I am currently looking into creating my own Twitter bot (not the spamming kind) that carries out some form of automation. I see quite a few of these bots when checking Twitter and interested to see how I could create my own.

    I don't plan on developing anything fancy, such as the very impressive colorize_bot, where black and white images are made colour by simply mentioning the Colorize Bot Twitter handle. But maybe something a little more reserved, such as some textual response based on a hashtag or phrase.

    Putting such ideas into practice is the prime environment to learning as I'm developing something that is of interest to me personally on a subject that excites me.

  • I’ve had this blog since 2007 when I had a bright idea to make a small mark on the internet. Back then, there weren’t many platforms to easily contribute ones technical thoughts freely in writing as there are now. All you really had were forums and a handful of other sites in the likes of 4GuysFromRolla.com, C# Corner and LearnASP.com (to name a few that come to mind). Now I could be wrong about the accuracy of this opening statement as 2007 was a long time ago - back in much simpler times when I was a Junior Web Developer.

    We have now come to a point where we’re spoilt for choice. There are multiple mediums where you have the freedom to publish your own technical writing in a more public and accessible way, the main ones being:

    • Medium
    • Dev.to
    • Hashnode.com
    • LinkedIn Articles

    At present, I post some of my writing to Medium whether that is a clone of my own blog content or new material specifically for the platform. However, I’m now rethinking where I should be publishing my content as I am now seeing more of my fellow developers on Twitter posting content to dev.to, when they previously used Medium.

    I really like dev.to found its approach to content curation to the developer community refreshing, which makes for very addictive reading and you can really see the passion in the writers. Should I start cross-posting there as well for more exposure? How does this affect things from an SEO standpoint where I have the same post on my blog as well as Medium and dev.to? All I know is anything I cross-post from my blog to Medium gets ranked higher in Google search results, which is to be expected.

    If I’m being honest to myself, I like posting content where I’m another small cog part of a wider community as there is a higher chance in like-minded individuals gaining access to your content and in the process get involved by commenting and imparting their knowledge on your written piece. You can’t help but feel rewarded when your article gets a like, clap or comment, which in return makes you want to do the same for other contributers. This doesn’t really happen on a personal website.

    When you are posting on another platform you don’t have to worry about technical issues or hosting. The only thing you need to do is write! But you have to remember that you’re writing in a platform that is not your own and any future changes will be out of your control.

    As great as these other writing platforms are, you are restricted in really seeing the developers personality, which is something that speaks volumes when viewing their personal website. They present their content in their own unique way and most importantly write about things freely that, otherwise, may not be within the parameters of a third-party platform.

    Final Thoughts

    As I’ve noted a shift in the number of technical posts being published to dev.to, I will more than likely do the same and cross-post any relevant content from my personal site. You can’t help but feel it’s the best place to get exposure to programming related content. Having said this, I still feel there’s is space for me to also cross-post to Medium. But what I won’t do is cross-post the same content to both. This feels counter-intuitive. Use the most appropriate platform that has the highest chance of targeting the readers based on the subject matter in hand.

    I don’t think I could ever stop writing within my own site as I like the freedom of expression - no strings attached. I can write about whatever I want and if there happens to be a post I’d like to also publish to the likes of either Medium or dev.to, I got the flexibility to do that as well.

  • There are times when what I want to express does not form into words, which is very much unlike me if I look back at my journey through blogging. I'm noticing more so than ever that writers block is becoming a regular occurrence resulting in a lack the energy to write my thoughts on subjects of interest.

    One blogs not just for others, but for themselves!

    I sometimes question if a post is worth the time it takes to write as it might not even be of interest to anyone. This in itself is not the right attitude. One blogs not just for others, but most importantly for themselves! This is what I have to keep telling myself during times of self doubt. I have always had the opinion that if I manage to help just one person from one of my posts, then it's truly a job well done!

    Every blogger has a process they go through before publishing a post. I have the problem of just wanting to get a post out as quickly as humanly possible just to see the end result, to the detriment of quality. Over the last few years, this small site of mine has gained traction from both readers and search engines (the stats speak for themselves) and it is during this time I constantly fight to reign myself in to ensure the content I put out is up to the mark. Maybe I am putting too much pressure on focusing on the numbers (Google Analytics, Adsense, etc) than words.

    I look at my blogging heroes like Scott Hanselman, Troy Hunt, Mosh Hamedani and Iris Classon (to name a few) and at times ponder if I will have the ability to churn out great posts on a regular basis with such ease and critical acclaim as they do. Do they even experience writers block? What is their writing process?

    As for my process, it’s changed somewhat. Writing has become more of a special event rather than on an ad-hoc basis, where I now schedule time within the comfort of my new office setup (still need to blog about that!) a couple of times weekly to write and plan future posts. In addition, before getting into the nitty-gritty detail, I’ve learnt to create a skeletal structure first to outline a posts milestones. I’ve ended up doing this across the initial stages of many posts, as I gather my thought processes.

    The new approach has also made writing less daunting and more manageable as I am not just focusing all my efforts on producing a single post alone. I literally have an Evernote notebook created specifically with a collection of post ideas. Some bear fruit, some don’t.

    I like to end this post on a positive note. The upside of this situation is I know deep down writing is a release for me and it’s not something I could ever grow tired of. Yes, it can be frustrating at times, but I will continue to write when I can and even more so when I can’t. It’ll show progress and how far I’ve come.

  • As I have been writing the last few blog posts, I've been getting the case of "twitchy feet" during the writing process. I normally get "twitchy feet" when frustrated or annoyed by things in my life that I feel could be done easier. In this case, my site has started to frustrate me and felt that adding new posts became a chore.

    Over the 10 years (has it really been this long!?) owning and maintaining this site, it's started to become a bit of the beast from the initial outset. I've jumped from platform to platform based on my needs at the time:

    • Wordpress (2006)
    • BlogEngine (2007 to 2012)
    • Kentico (2012 to present)

    I feel at the grand old age of 31, I need a platform that nurtures my writing creativity without having to worry about general maintainance and somewhat restrictive editorial functionality. Ever since I tasted the pure nectar that is Markdown, my writing speed has gone through the roof and love having full control through the simplistic editing interface - Markdown is the furture!

    I am a certified Kentico Developer (you may have got that impression from my vast posts on the platform) and specifically chose Kentico CMS because it gave me the full flexibility to build the site how I wanted. As great as the platform is, I've come to the conclusion that this site will never grow to be anything more than one thing: a blog. So I want to down-size like a person getting on in his years and move to a smaller house.

    Enter Ghost...

    Ghost

    The Ghost platform has garnered a lot of traction over the years ever since its concept in 2012. I've been keeping an eye on it over the years and never really gave the platform much thought until I noticed quite a few popular bloggers making the move and experiencing the lightening fast performance. This is possibly down to the blogger hosting their instance on Ghost Pro. Could be wrong. I am planning on going down the Ghost Pro hosting route and get everything setup by the very nice people behind the scenes at Ghost HQ, who will lovingly host and look after my site.

    I opened up a dialog on Twitter to Ghost who were very kind in alleviating my initial migration worries:

    @sbhomra We can upload images for you, if you send the upload directory in the format Ghost uses, i.e. /content/images/yyyy/mm/image-name
    — Ghost (@TryGhost) October 7, 2016

    @sbhomra We can help with the redirects if you're coming over to Ghost(Pro). :)
    — Ghost (@TryGhost) October 6, 2016

    The only thing I will have to get over, which Ghost will not be able to help me with is getting over the mindset that I will not be able to to tinker around with my site to the full extent as I do now. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing and will give me the opportunity to concentrate more on writing quality content. I just hate the thought of restricting myself.

    Ghost has put a framework in place that no other platform has done so well - giving power to write content anywhere:

    • Desktop browser
    • Mobile browser
    • Desktop application

    Looks like Ghost lives up to its main selling point:

    An open source blogging platform which makes writing pleasurable and publishing simple.

    What I also love is the SEO optimisation out-of-the-box. God knows how many hours I've spent trying to get my site SEO friendly, not only from an search indexing standpoint, but a social sharing standpoint too with all the open graph tags built-in. No need for extra plugins or development from a code perspective.

    Whats Next?

    As it currently stands, I am evaluating Ghost through their 14 day trial and need to send an email to their support team before I make a confirmed decision to move. I like what I am seeing to far. Just need to get the time to put a migration process in place to move the 200 posts on this site. Eek!

    Ghost is definitely not as scary as I once thought. Cue Ray Parker Jr...