Thursday, March 12, 2020 [Tweets] [Favorites]

How (Some) Good Corporate Engineering Blogs Are Written

Dan Luu:

On the other hand, companies compete relatively directly when recruiting, so being more compelling relative to another company has value to them; replicating the playbook Cloudflare or Segment has used with their engineering “brands” would be a significant recruiting advantage. The playbook isn’t secret: these companies broadcast their output to the world and are generally happy to talk about their blogging process.

Despite the seemingly obvious benefits of having a “good” corp eng blog, most corp eng blogs are full of stuff engineers don’t want to read. Vague, high-level fluff about how amazing everything is, content marketing, handwave-y posts about the new hotness (today, that might be using deep learning for inappropriate applications; ten years ago, that might have been using “big data” for inappropriate applications), etc.

To try to understand what companies with good corporate engineering blog have in common, I interviewed folks at three different companies that have compelling corporate engineering blogs (Cloudflare, Heap, and Segment) as well as folks at three different companies that have lame corporate engineering blogs (which I’m not going to name).

13 Comments

A good blog post, even a trivial one, will have a date on it. Ironically, there's no date to be found on Dan Luu's piece. When was it written?

At least the 'Archives' section has the dates... :)

Sören Nils Kuklau

A good blog post, even a trivial one, will have a date on it.

Also, a width. Setting width: 32em on <body> made it so much more readable. (Yes, I know about reader mode. That looks even better, of course.)

Speaking of blogs without a maximum text width..... here we are, all posting comments on one ;)

What’s wrong with reflowing to the window width that the reader has chosen?

Sören Nils Kuklau

Speaking of blogs without a maximum text width….. here we are, all posting comments on one ;)

True, but Michael’s blog has a larger font size and a sidebar, making the effective characters per line far better.

(In two tabs of the same Safari window, Dan’s blog shows “Despite the seemingly obvious benefits of having a “good” corp eng blog, most corp eng blogs are full of stuff engineers don’t want to read. Vague, high-level fluff about how amazing” in one line, and Michael’s only shows “Despite the seemingly obvious benefits of having a “good” corp eng blog, most corp eng blogs are full of stuff engineers”. That’s still a bit too much, but far more readable. If I set Dan’s blog to reader mode it becomes just “Despite the seemingly obvious benefits of having a “good” corp eng blog, most”.)

Definitely not trying to malign anyone's strategies for web design, only poking a little fun, no offense was intended. I actually do like it when sites give more control over the layout to the reader. And for reading this site I typically make my window half-width, while for sites like Dan's I either zoom in significantly or put it in reader mode.

I actually find @Dan Luu's site to work pretty well given you can just resize the text by resizing the window. Which is hit and miss on many "modern" sites.

@michael: in response to your question, check out https://practicaltypography.com/line-length.html

resizing the browser window is a cumbersome way to get text to reflow at a reasonable line length. I usually have other tabs open, and resizing the window and switching between tabs affects them.

Related: the comments field on this site doesn’t scale down to mobile screen sizes, which makes using it a terrible experience. Things often go haywire because the text field is large enough that you have to scroll horizontally, and text selection on iOS doesn’t play well with this situation.

Thanks for the feedback. I guess I tend to use smaller windows and more windows vs. tabs than others. I’ll look into setting a maximum width. I’m not sure what’s going on with the comment editor field. On my iPhone, it does scale down to the device width but then zooms in when entering edit mode. I’ll take a look at how newer WordPress themes handle this.

I’ve adjusted the line length and (I think) fixed the issue with the comments field on mobile.

Confirmed this comments field works much better on my phone. Line length seems good on desktop too. Thanks @michael!

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