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Why do I blog?

In the age of social media and social media replacements, why do we need blogs? Well, social media is “realtime”, but it is also “write once, forget for eternity”: besides not owning the content posted there, one also cannot retrieve it when needed (be them the author or just people that remembered that useful post and now are searching for it). And, I intend to write more content that I want to be retrieved later than content that is valid only for the moment.

End of article? Not so hasty.

Technical writing productivity 🔗

Looking back, I discovered that it was faster for me to write technical documents (e.g., bachelor thesis vs. PhD thesis, research papers, design documents) when I had an actively updated blog than when I was not writing in it.

Writing frequently as a hobby is good practice for those times when I do need to write a long technical article. It is easier to start, and easier to get into the flow when my hand is trained to write.

In fact, there was even a piece of advice on some podcast I follow – unfortunately no longer remembering which one – where the guest said that the best life advice he can give to someone working in STEM is to write something technical – not necessarily publish – every day. The podcast guest was contrasting this with the more common advice of always having a 5 years plan, saying that this was actually detrimental to him.

Sure, this is extrapolating from one anecdata, but I think there is some ground of truth in it. Luck favors the prepared mind says Hamming quoting Pasteur. And, having a brain primed to write technical stuff helps when work or other activities demand it.

A place to post (personal) notes about science and tech 🔗

Michael Snoyman – of FPComplete and Stackage fame – once said that he keeps a journal of all the errors he has encountered while writing code or using software. This way, when the same error pops up again, he can quickly retrieve the solution.

This is not something new or unique. Knuth – creator of TeX and author of “The Art of Computer Programming” – also kept a log of all the bugs solved in TeX.

But I don’t want the blog to only contain a retelling of errors encountered. I also intend to use it to write about puzzles (e.g. Advent of Code) and exercises, but also to write notes about scientific articles, research papers and books that I’m reading – this year I intend to come back to the strategy of interleaving technical and fiction materials.

At LeapYear, one of the coworkers once told us a story from the time he was a PhD student: whenever he was going to his advisor claiming that he understood a paper, the advisor would retort with Did you code it?. The idea was that, while reading scientific articles, in the majority of cases we gloss over details – if they are even all present in there –, which become evident when we try to code the ideas. Sure, there’s no need to implement all the code in all the papers, but doing this for the most important parts helps in internalizing the idea, where it is working and where it doesn’t, and maybe even opening up new avenues – bringing us back to Pasteur’s quote from the previous section.

These logs mentioned here could be held private, but they could also help others if they are public. In fact, they can also help me, as I hope that interested readers with more knowledge about a topic would provide me with corrections and completions where needed. It could be a fool’s hope, but it could also be the old adage of the best way to answer a question is to post a wrong answer and have the Internet correct it for you.

Explanatory topics 🔗

A third reason for the blog is to try and explain topics to others. It will be like the activity I was doing for ROSEdu Techblog, except this time I intend to also expand to non-computer-related subjects. Differential privacy, Haskell, Machine Learning, security, etc. are topics I’d like to touch.

Of course, most of the material could be presented in other places. This is just one attempt at explaining things. It might help some and might confuse others. I’ll try my best to maximize the first category and minimize the second one, though I’m only human. If you see any error or have improvement suggestions, please let me know.

Personal articles 🔗

In the end, this is a personal blog, so there might be some articles that are not technical, that are covering more personal subjects, or are just a “rant of the times” post. This should be a tiny proportion of the site, though.


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