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Where We Publish Technical Writing

This year at ng-conf, I took part in the Technical Writers Summit. I gave a brief talk where I wanted to talk about different places and strategies for publishing the technical blog posts that all of us attending the event write. As I prepared my talk and thought more on the topic I realized while I could talk about what I do, it might not be totally representative of what others do. So I threw together a small survey a week or so before the event and gathered as much input on the topic of where we publish, why we choose those places, and other related questions as possible. Here are some takeaways I found after digging into the data:

Most post to only one platform

a graph comparing the number of platforms writers post on

This first one surprised me a little. With all of the options for people to publish their writing on, I assumed most would spread out across them much like many people do with social media. I suspect this may be due to difficulties cross-publishing to different places (more on this later).

Medium is still a powerhouse

Of all the different places that people post to, Medium grabbed the majority of those who only posted in a single place, followed by self-hosted blogs. That’s the same amount of people who say they only post to Medium as everyone who says they post to some combination of platforms combined. Medium was also the most used overall out of all the choices.

A graph comparing all the different combinations of platforms writers publish to

A graph comparing how many writers choose each platform

This also makes sense given the common thread in responses of wanting to post where the readers are. If we want people to read what we write to some degree we need to go to them. Right now, a large number of them are on Medium.

Pain points

I was also interested in the difficulties that some writers encountered when publishing their work. Code blocks/formatting/highlighting within the blog posts on different platforms was one of the points that were often mentioned. That’s understandable given that on some platforms it’s quite easy to feature blocks of code with the proper highlighting while on others, Medium, for example, you often have to choose between having easily embeddable code blocks without highlighting or managing one or more separate gists to embed code samples the way you would like.

A graph comparing the different pain points writers encounter

Another common issue was how difficult it can be for cross-posting between the different platforms. Importing your content for a post is sometimes cumbersome and, in some cases, can drive traffic away from your intended target if not done properly due to the SEO weight of something like DEV.to or Medium vs your own personal blog.

Quick pro-tip: Both DEV.to and Medium allow you to set the canonical url for posts. If you’re new to cross-posting this is a good place to start.

Most write because they enjoy it

A graph showing how many writers are paid vs how many do it as a hobby or to learn

Just over 21% of those who responded have been paid for their writing while around 79% say that they write technical posts because it helps their understanding of the concept or because they just enjoy it. That’s fantastic (on both accounts)! I think that’s what makes the technical blogging community great - t’s full of people who want to share their knowledge with others while they develop their own skills.

Conclusion

This was an interesting exercise. Given the relatively small sample size that responded there are some interesting tidbits of information found in the responses. However, this is just a glimpse into the larger technical blogging community. I think I want to try this again in a year, see if we can grow the number of responses, and get an even better picture of the technical blogging community.

As promised at my talk, I’ve released the response data for others. You can find the link below. Take a look and see if there are any other takeaways that you can find!

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/12PKxiThkpbgm4L3CdqfBesm4aJ0P7XoSCsafSz6Uw/edit?usp=sharing