Re: Reading More Technical Content Can Help You Improve Your Content Creation Skills
This post is in response to Stephanie Morillo’s post
The main piece of advice that is elaborated upon is to read a lot of technical content.
What I think is very helpful about this post are the questions that are asked. I thought it would be a good idea to answer these questions so that I can share my opinions around how I read through technical content.
Why do I like a piece of technical content?🔗
I can answer this in different ways depending on the context that leads me to find technical content. The main two contexts being discovered through social media, or via a search engine.
Through social media🔗
I spend a lot of time on technical social media, like Reddit, Hacker News, Dev.to, and Twitter and I mostly only read the trending posts. So in these cases, an individual’s or company’s personality drives my interest over the actual content.
A lot of the time this leads to some cult of personality for popular posts in the comment section. This can’t be helped. However, this kind of engagement occasionally leads to interesting and tangential discussion. I like when the author can participate in the discussion as well, but this is a rare occurrence.
I prefer concepts over code in the case of social media discovery. Emphasis when I’m reading through something that is about an ecosystem I don’t have experience using. I like having my hand held lightly, and guided through the examples with metaphor or images.
Bonus points if you both provide links for more context, as well as provide a simplified summary. Help frame how I should think, and even give negative examples for how I should not think if it helps.
These posts are primarily to entertain me, and then to inform me. I want the attention to readability with layout and markup to be more considered. If there are images to help set tone, I’d rather they be well used memes, or diagrams.
If I’m searching for something technical, it’s more likely that I’m doing research, design or implementation. So personality may continue to play a role in my likelihood to revisit an article, but the code snippets and coherence of an explanation is more important.
Bonus points if consideration was made for keyword searching or organized textbook-like. I don’t need my hand held as much in his case. Just point me in a direction. I don’t want the entire post to be read through carefully unless the post is about low-level detail.
I’ll be grumpy, but I will endure a post that is harder to skim if the content is promising enough.
Who is their intended audience?🔗
Part of reading a lot of technical content means reading things that are not specifically targeted at myself.
When the content involves discussion of code, I really prefer a lot of gentle, but explicit nudging around the skill level required to make sense of what is in the post.
Wide audience is generally my least favorite because content has to be high-level enough to not lose anyone. If you’re aiming wide, then say so or be very obvious.
Textbook-style is good enough for me. Build up concepts in a reasonable sequence. Or link to posts or definitions that talk about foundational concepts that you’re introducing. Unless you’ve already stated an expected skill level, I will feel like you don’t know the audience you’re writing to.
What does this (company/individual) do really well?🔗
This kind of question is mostly for judging a collection of posts. Any single post may have left positive impressions on me of being informative, concise, funny, easy to read. But I don’t feel like I can judge what the competencies or patterns of a company or individual is until I see other work.
I look for consistency in voice. Are we having a conversation. Am I reading a monologue? Do you know where your content beats and break things up with whitespace or images? Are you flexible enough with how you present ideas so that I understand you or know what homework I have in order to understand? Visual branding also comes into mind when discussing consistency.
What does this content help me do?🔗
My expectations of what the content offers me is again, dependent on the context in which I was introduced.
In general, if it is through social media, I’m looking first to have some kind of entertainment aspect. I’m looking for a breadth of information that allows me to insert my own ideas. I know that content creators aren’t always in control of where and when their content is posted, so this isn’t always going to be fair to judge entertainment value when the content is informational. But it is a plus if the author can be engaging and educational because it takes effort to do well.
Conversely, if it is through organic search, I’m looking for some kind of informational value. Help me solve a problem, or understand a model of thinking better.
How would doing (or implementing) “X” improve my content?🔗
This is a great question. Often when I ask myself this question, I’m considering the visual branding of an individual. But lately I’ve also been thinking about how my favorite creators structure and pace the flow of information in their posts while balancing their voice. This is why it is a good idea to follow content creators that resonate with you, because everyone learns to strike this balance differently. And typically the more someone writes technical content, the more natural and easier to read they get.
What can they improve upon to make this content even more effective?🔗
At least for me, it is easier to edit someone else’s work. Naturally, I’m constantly thinking about how little bits of friction can be smoothed out and so that I could understand it better. This could mean mixing the styles of creators together, and I try to identify creators who are particularly good (or sometimes bad) at one thing so I can pay attention to how their style evolves.
I don’t know if this post will be useful to others, but it was a good exercise for me. If you’re a content creator, I encourage you to read through Stephanie’s original post. Ask yourself these questions and try to give concrete answers.