Category Archives: Blogging

5 Reasons Devops Should Blog

Join 9500 others and follow Sean Hull on twitter @hullsean.

1. Stand up and be heard

Years ago I was sitting on an online forum chatting with an Oracle buddy of mine. This was circa 1998. We were working on an open source tool to interface with Oracle. There were all these libraries, for PHP & Perl, and a lot of developers starting to build tools. We hatched this hair brained idea to write a book about all of this, and pitched it to O’Reilly. They loved it and thus was born the book Oracle & Open Source in 2001.

Writing a book was, is and always will be a lot of work. It was a great learning experience too. Editors critique your writing, and this teaches you to speak to a broader audience, clarify your statements, and including illustrations and stories.

Along with this came opportunities to speak at conferences, user groups and meetups. It’s exhilerating, and professionally challenging, and I enjoyed all of it.

Blogging allows you to do all of the above in a more measured way. Write regularly, get your ideas out there, get feedback, rinse & repeat. What’s more over time you’ll build up a library of material some of which will draw solid, strong, repeat traffic. It may be what you are most passionate about, what ideas you’ve ironed out smoothly, or what material is most missing from the we already. Whatever the reason your analytics will show you the way.

Read this: Database expert interview questions for candidates, recruiters & managers

2. Share your lessons

In professional services engagements, you learn something new everyday. After a few years you’ll have some battle scars & war stories too. For example I used to have a strong distrust of sales. But through real lessons in the feast or famine world of running your own business, you learn some survival instincts. And knowing how to sell your services & expertise is an art all to itself.

Also: A CTO Must Never Do This

[quote]
Getting up and taking a stand isn’t easy. You’ll receive criticism, and likely feel professionally vulnerable at first. But that only makes us stronger engineers, willing to listen, and better communicators.
[/quote]

3. Get opinionated

Taking a stand on controversial topics, is it something you want to do? Is it something you can do confidently, but also being open to criticism, and seeing all sides.

It’s challenging, but in that process it will either open you to new ideas, or make your resolve stronger. And that process is great for your professional development.

Also check out: AirBNB didn’t have to fail – don’t go down with Amazon

4. Withstand a sh*tstorm

Audiences keep you honest. If I were to go out on a limb I’d say technically brilliant, engineering audiences even more so.

I remember a post I did a year ago, which referenced a feature based on a wrong software version. In other words that feature would not work based on my article. The readers tore me to pieces in the comments.

But listen closely now, I’m saying that’s a good thing. Yes criticism is a very good thing indeed. Get enough of it, and you’ll learn to weed out the folks who are just trolls, from the ones with genuine suggestions. And all that makes you stronger!

Learn to listen a bit, and that makes you an even better sysadmin or devop.

Related: 5 conversational ways to evaluate great consultants

5. Learn by doing

Developers, ops, DBAs and Big Data jockeys alike are doers. We sit and code, build & configure components, troubleshoot & tune. Writing is descriptive and often it’s difficult for us to step back and describe what we’re doing.

By writing we carefully sift through our own thought processes to break it down for novices, or a broader audience. This is a learning process for us too. It’s therapeutic. But also it hones our message and makes us better teachers. We literally learn by doing.

Also: The Myth of Five Nines

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My DIY Disqus hack for blog discovery

I discovered disqus about a year ago while enjoying one of my favorite blogs, Fred Wilson’s AVC.

Believe it or not for a while I had it installed on my wordpress blog and thought it was pronouced DISK-OUS.

Join 5100 others and follow Sean Hull on twitter @hullsean.

[mytweetlinks]

What disqus does beautifully

Disqus does a lot of things great. The first thing you realize is they remove a huge hurdle for users across the web. Managing multiple logins on blogs here and there, when you just want to comment. This is your first of many wins.

Bloggers can count on an increase in discussion, commenting & overall engagement. What’s more it reduces spam. Great!


Bloggers want traffic, thats one reason they spend their valuable time sharing their knowledge. Jumping in to Disqus is one great way to do that. More robust discovery can push this much further. Driving traffic traffic for all of us will drive adoption of disqus across the web.

Disqus provides a one-stop dashboard for all of this, and it’s wonderful for bloggers.

What i wanted more of…

I found myself using disqus, but wondering…

o bloggers – who are the big shots?
o how do I find opinion minded people?
o how do I find intelligent discourse?
o can I encourage more discussions on my blog?
o I want web audiences discovering Sean Hull’s Scalable Startups
o How do I search – for this article, a comment that I posted?

I found myself keeping a list of disqus blogs. I would follow these blogs around the web, and thought – Why am I doing this? Why isn’t this part of the software? What am I intuitively searching for?

Why is database administration talent in short supply? They are the Mythical MySQL DBAs

A call for @disqushelp on twitter

I posted a request for info on twitter. @disqushelp was quick to point me to their Disqus Gravity Project. As I commented on the designing disqus gravity blog post it is a wonderful tool and proof of concept. It sure illustrates where disqus is taking things and the important visualization possible. But unfortunately it wasn’t helping me. 🙁

Also take a look at: Why Generalists are Better at Scaling the Web

How I hacked disqus digest emails

I was receiving the disqus digest emails. I think when you signup you automatically get those. I was mostly just deleting them, as they didn’t have much of interest in them. Then I started clicking through, and realized – hey wait, Disqus is kind of doing what I want already. They just need a little help.

I decided to go to some of my favorite blogs. I visited AVC, RWW, Wired, HBR, businessweek, computerworld, chrisbrogan.com and scrolled down to disqus comments. I then clicked “community” tab. Along the right side you’ll see the most active commenters. I then clicked through to their disqus profiles, and “followed” them just like you might do on Twitter.

Also: How I increased my blog pagerank to 5

After doing this for the top 5 commenters on ten to fifteen blogs, my disqus digests emails started bringing me new blogs! This is super cool. I’ve discovered some Venture, some technical and some iPhone blogs I never new about.

What was missing – discovery

Discovery is tech vernacular for what I was doing. Scouring the web for subject matter experts was exactly what I was doing. Picking the ones that used disqus allowed me to share my thoughts and weigh in across the spectrum of topics I knew well.

Disqus digests came up short for some people. But after I started using the follow feature, suddenly blogs and authors were popping up on my radar. Exactly what I wanted.

Keep up the good work guys. Would love to see the iPhone app if in fact it’s under development!

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A Pagerank of 5 Is Possible – Here's How

Join 4500 others and follow Sean Hull on twitter @hullsean.

A highly trafficked website is a valuable asset indeed. For a services business it helps you build reputation and reach prospects.

Here’s how to get there.

1. Longevity

We’ve been around for a while, as you can see from a quick whois search below. I’ve owned the web property (aka domain name) iheavy.com and used it for the same purpose, since July 1999! Google notices this and ranks accordingly.

Until 2011 I wasn’t blogging much. I had a pagerank of 3 though. That’s attributable to two factors:

o 12 years owning the domain at that time

o Writing a book for O’Reilly which got a strong backlink

[code]
$ whois iheavy.com

Registered through: GoDaddy.com, LLC (http://www.godaddy.com)
Domain Name: IHEAVY.COM
Created on: 14-Jul-99
Expires on: 14-Jul-15
Last Updated on: 18-Feb-13

Registrant:
iHeavy, Inc.
Box 5352
New York, New York 10185
United States

Administrative Contact:
Hull, Sean hullsean@gmail.com
iHeavy, Inc.
Box 5352
New York, New York 10185
United States
+1.2125336828
[/code]

2. Authored a Technical Book (pagerank 3)

I authored a book for O’Reilly in 2001 called Oracle and Open Source. This bumped up our ranking from a flat 1 because we got backlinks from O’Reilly’s author blog, a strong authoritative signal to Google.

Why is database administration talent in short supply? They are the Mythical MySQL DBA

Here’s Why I Wrote the Book on Oracle & Open Source.

[quote]
Consistent ownership and use of a domain name, along with backlinks from other authorities in your area of expertise weigh strongly in your favor.
[/quote]

3. Started blogging weekly

In Spring of 2011 I started blogging regularly. This was an effort to build out my services business, solidify my voice, and bring prospects and customers to my site.

[mytweetlinks]

4. Installed Google Analytics & Feedburner

It might seem crazy but to that point I didn’t track much. Without metrics you don’t know which pages users are visiting, how long they’re staying, or where they’re converting.

Also take a look at: Why Generalists are Better at Scaling the Web

A conversion – for those out of the analytics loop – is when a user does something you want them to do. For an e-commerce site, they buy or start the process of buying. For a services website it could be visiting your about page, downloading a pdf or e-book, or signing up for a newsletter.

5. WordPress SEO plugin

WordPress is a great publishing platform. Among the many plugins to choose from, Yoast SEO is a very important one to include. It exposes all the hidden SEO fields and functions in a powerful way. Edit your short description, keywords & categories, and a lot more.

Check out: A CTO Must Never Do This

It also helps you frame and think about how your content is seen both by search engines, and searchers alike.

6. Keyword research

A little keyword research goes a long way. You might be a subject matter expert in a given field, but if you don’t know how your customers search, you can’t help them find you. Remember they don’t know what you do, so likely don’t know jargony terms or the vernacular your expertise uses within.

SEO Moz has some great tools to help you, along with Wordtracker and Google has a keyword research tool for adwords.

[quote]
Strong titles should make you click to open the post. A dash of keyword research and regularly watching your analytics should be revealing. Give your readers what they want!
[/quote]

See also: My Blog Traffic is Growing Using these 5 Killer Tactics

7. Watch your analytics (pagerank 4)

After about six months of regular blogging, and a few viral hits, our pagerank went up to 4. What was I doing? All of the above, plus watching analytics closely. I asked myself questions about visitors:

o Which pages do they like and why?
o What causes them to stick around?
o What causes bounce rate to go down?
o What causes them to convert?

I found that adding links to relevant content right in the text helped reduce bounce rate right away. This was a real discovery that I could apply everyday.

Hiring a Cloud Engineer? Get our 8 Questions to Ask an AWS Expert for Recruiters, Managers & candidates alike

I also noticed that good content helped, but directly imploring readers to signup to the newsletter got regular conversions daily. Huh, that was a surprise since all along I had the signup form along the right column. Go figure.

8. Guest posting

Guest posting is great. It allows you to work with real publications who have paid editors. These folks with provide you with a more professional view, and that is great for your own writing and understanding your audience. The hardest thing to learn is how to write to a broad audience.

You’ll also of course get a backlink which is a major authority signal to the search engines. You might get paid a bit too, but your mileage may very.

I managed to do some regular writing for INFOWORLD and Database Journal. I wrote one piece for ChangeThis.com called Get Out of the Technology Hex.

From there I signed a syndication deal with Developer Zone. Since I have embedded links to content, that brings me regular traffic, even besides my profile, and the authoritative backlink.

Lately I’m working on some stuff for Gigaom and ACM’s Queue. Steady as she goes!

9. Get on the aggregators

Most likely your industry has some sort of aggregator site which will carry your RSS syndication feed. Get on those. That will drive regular traffic and RSS feedburner subscribers. We’re on Planet MySQL and it’s been great!

10. Patience, rinse and repeat

Easier said than done, I know. If you want this to happen overnight, you had better get onto the real world celebrity track. Otherwise work on your content, work on your voice, write clicky titles and keep your audience interested with solid content. And watch your traffic grow!

Get more. Grab our exclusive monthly Scalable Startups. We share tips and special content. Here’s a sample