I'm currently not accepting articles. There are a few people I might make an exception for and you probably know who you are.
So, you are thinking about publishing an article or two here. Or maybe you already have, and would like to do more. You aren't sure what to write about exactly, but you'd like it to be useful, and hopefully one of the more successful published articles.
Well, you might have noticed that I write a lot. It isn't all fantastic prose, but it's pretty regular, and I'm a long way from being out of ideas. You aren't out of ideas either; you just haven't realized that yet.
First, do understand that whatever you submit for publication has to be at least somewhat relevant to computers and computer technology. I'm pretty tolerant about the relevance, but I've had people send me articles about the Red Sox's pennant chances! Gosh, I'm no sports fan anyway, but if it had anything in there about how they use computers for whatever it is they might need them for, I probably would have published it. I've had people ask if I'll take poetry, and the answer is, sure, if it's relevant. Cartoons, artwork, song: whatever: I will publish it as long as it has some relation to what the rest of this site is about. That's mostly Unix and Linux, but I'm not opposed to other articles, even if they were about Windows. I write a Windows article myself now and then.
it doesn't matter if it's already been covered here, especially if you can do a better job. Multiple points of view are always good, because the way I explain something might not work for a particular person, while your slightly different take makes it all crystal clear. So feel free to look around and get your ideas from stuff already here. If you want popularilty, try to figure out why the articles that are popular have become so (some of that baffles me), and write with an ear toward whatever you think that is.
But aside from that, where do you get ideas from? There may be some subjects you are very well versed in because you have had a lot of experience. I really wish someone would do a Filepro review, for one, and I know a lot of the people who read this have used or still use that. Whatever it is that you know well is easy for you to write up, and unless all you know is baseball or politics, I'll probably accept and publish it. Well, that's great, but there are probably only a few things you really know cold, so after that the well is dry.
Not really. Actually, sometimes the best subject you can pick is the one you don't know well at all. Maybe you have been avoiding really learning regular expressions, or Perl, or C or Visual Studio or whatever: if it interests you, it will be of interest to thousands of other people, because most of the people who come here are very similar in background and knowledge. Since you will have to learn the subject to write about it, your frustrations and confusions will be fresh in your mind, and you will often do a better job explaining how xyz works than some expert who has used it for years. Experts take too many things as obvious, and forget to tell us poor mortals about too many basics. Some can overcome that and do a good job in spite of their long experience, but it is easier when you have just learned it yourself.
Product and book reviews are also good. That's an area I do a fairly poor job in; I'd love it if someone who does it better kicked in a few reviews. The nice thing about software reviews is that the vendors keep coming out with new versions, giving you the opportunity to revise or write up a whole new effort. We can use reviews of just about anything techy and there are new computer books every month. I'll almost always publish reviews.
Well, you need at least a B.A. in literature, obviously. A thesaurus is critical for proper obfuscation so that your article can be more confusing and therefore sound more erudite. Although whatever you write, I'm going to pick it apart and hound you until you Get It Right.
Naw, that's not true. Write however you want. This is a tech site, and people don't expect perfect grammar or beautiful words. Explain things as best you can. If you are a really bad speller, run it through a dictionary. Other than that, don't worry about it.
There are things you should worry about though, and that's search engine popularity. You want your article to be understood by Google and friends, and ideally you'd like it to get high rankings. To do that, just follow a few simple rules: don't use cutesy titles, and repeat your key words as often as is possible while not making it uncomfortable for a human reader. Titles are important, they are one of the things search engines glom onto. I bet you could come up with a dozen really cute titles for this article, and if this were being published in a magazine, they might be a good idea. But on the web, our FIRST audience is search engines, because that's where a large part of our second audience comes from, and "What to write about to be published at aplawrence.com" is the right title for Google et al. Repeat the title words when possible. Don't force the words in where they don't fit, but be alert for opportunities. The more often the engines see "writing" and "publishing" in this article, the more chance they will realize that is what it is about, and the more chance they will serve it up when some search has those terms in it.
Another source of popularity is incoming links. Reference your article on your web site, and if it makes sense for you to mention it in a post you make to a newsgroup or another website, do so. Don't do it pointlessly, of course, but if the context is right, you definitely want to point people at it. With luck, other people will post links to it too, but they have to know about it first, right?
If you have published other related articles here or elsewhere, be sure to have them reference each other if at all possible. I'm not one of those protective, jealous types who won't let you reference another site: if it's relevant, put it in. The more useful cross-referencing only adds to value, so be sure to use it when you can. And of course you should ALWAYS reference your own web site. The web is called that because it is an interrelated web, right? Search engines like relationships; feed them what they like and they will be nice to you.
Well, this is the third article I've written today. I'm not out of ideas, but I am out of time, so this will be it. Until tomorrow, of course. I don't have any idea right now what I'll be writing about then, but unless I just get too busy with something else, I will be writing.
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More Articles by Tony Lawrence © 2009-11-07 Tony Lawrence
One day my daughter came in, looked over my shoulder at some Perl 4 code, and said, "What is that, swearing?" (Larry Wall)