Interview with Jeff Atwood from Coding Horror

By Daniel Scocco

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Even if you are just slightly interested in programming you probably know Jeff Atwood or his blog Coding Horror. The blog is attracting over 500,000 unique visitors every month, and it also counts 60,000 RSS readers, meaning that Jeff probably knows what he is talking about.

I have always been intrigued by his success, hence why I decided to throw some questions on his way. He was kind enough to answer them promptly. There are some interesting points, check it out!

1. How long have you been blogging?
Since mid-2004.

2. How many hours do you dedicate to your blog daily?
About two hours per day on average.

3. Do you make money with it?
I reluctantly started accepting advertising in June. I negotiate directly with the advertisers. I only allow three advertising slots because I don’t want to turn my blog into Times Square. Also, I try to choose advertisers that are appropriate for my audience. I also donate a percentage of my advertising income back to the community in the form of monetary contributions to public, open-source programming projects in the Microsoft .NET ecosystem.

4. What is your favorite blogging platform and why?
I use an ancient version of Movable Type, but my view towards blogging platforms is the smaller, the better. It’s about the content, not the tool you use to write that content. I find meta-blogging — blogging about blogging — incredibly boring.

5. What is the biggest mistake you did on your blog?
Everything I’ve done with my blog has been tremendously successful far, far beyond any expectations I had. I’m not sure it’s fair to characterize anything I’ve done on my blog as a mistake. If anything, my mistake was not to start blogging sooner!

6. Do you think RSS is the future of content distribution?
RSS is a technology; it should be completely invisible to the average user. When it isn’t, you get stuff like Oprah redefining RSS as “Ready for Some Stories”. We should no sooner have RSS icons than we have HTTP icons.

7. Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon or Reddit?
I’ll occasionally browse http://programming.reddit.com , but that’s about it. I tend to focus on links from my “social circle”, that is, the blogs I put in my aggregator. It’s a more reliable indicator of things I’ll like, things that tend to be outside the mainstream Digg circle. If everyone knows about it, what value does it provide? You have to go deeper.

8. What is the best marketing technique you have used?
The best marketing is no marketing– it’s doing what you love and sharing it with the public in a meaningful, easy to consume way. If you do that, and do it consistently and long enough, they’ll come to you. Whether you want them to or not!

9. Should everyone blog?
I’d love it it everyone blogged. The more the merrier. It’s a brave new world of infinite micro-content, and we have Google to filter out the best of the best. Unfortunately, not everyone has the time or inclination to blog, but I think the business case for blogs is fairly clear now, which is a big change from 2004 when I started.

10. Do you think Alexa is reliable?
Alexa is horribly flawed, but it’s eminently linkable and immediately available in a few clicks, so it has a perceived credibility. There’s a lesson there for web businesses, I think. Make it brainlessly easy, even if it isn’t perfect, and you’ll get traction.

11. If you could read only one blog, which one would you pick?
Metafilter, but that’s sort of cheating.

12. What is the secret of your success, expressed in one word?
Reading.



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18 Responses to “Interview with Jeff Atwood from Coding Horror”

  • Andrew

    Been a reader of Jeff’s blog since the early days, and I have to say that for me, he’s well and truly ‘jumped the shark’. Shame really.

  • OJ

    Jeff’s blog posts are always entertaining and interesting. His articles are of high quality, and don’t stink of regurgitated content like so many other blogs do. If only there were more blogs like it. Fresh content, even if it’s a new view on an old topic, is always going to be king.

    Bravo Jeff, love ya work.
    OJ

  • Skellie

    Ironically, his latest piece is a meta-blogging list of pet peeves. It certainly isn’t boring, either!

  • Nita

    I love your blogs. They’re very informative 🙂

  • engtech @ internet duct tape

    He’s definitely correct with the don’t worry about meta-blogging + social networking in a sense…

    I’ve been reading Coding Horror since back when I used Sage and only tracked 3 blogs.

    What I think Jeff does right is:
    – consistent writing (frequency + quality)
    – focuses on what he finds interesting
    – almost completely ignores blog culture… meaning a wider audience than “just bloggers”
    – doesn’t sweat the small stuff like blog theme (find someone that works and stick with it)

  • Ashok Arora

    It is very difficult to learn from successful bloggers.

  • Daniel

    Good point Skellie.

    Yeah when you have over 50k rss readers you probably don’t need advice about how to blog :). If anything it would be the other way around.

  • Skellie

    I’m also subscribed to this one, and I don’t even know how to program. For me, it’s a lesson in great writing.

    It’s also funny that he finds meta-blogging boring. I guess when you’re that much of a genius by nature you don’t need tips. It’s not so easy for the rest of us 😉

  • Arpit Jacob

    Nice interview I love his blog. Its in my “Notable blogs” Directory in Google Reader.

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