Curation over creation

I went to TechMids the last week. One of the talks that had the most immediate impact on me was the talk from Jen Lambourne, one of the authors of Docs for Developers.

One of the ideas contained in the talk was the following:

You might have significantly more impact by curating existing resources than creating new ones.

Like a lot of people, when I started getting into technical writing, I started with a lot of entry level content. Stuff like Ten Tips for a Healthy Codebase and The Early Return Pattern and You. Consequently, there’s a proliferation of 101 level content on blogs like mine, often only lightly re-hashing the source documentation. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and I’m definitely not saying that people shouldn’t be writing these articles. You absolutely should be writing this sort of thing if you’re trying to get better at technical writing, and even if there are 100,000 articles on which HTTP verb to use for what, yours could be the one to make it click for someone.

But, I should be asking myself what my actual goal is. If my main priority is to become a better writer with helping people learn being a close second, then I ought to crack on with writing that 100,001st article. If I’m focused specifically on having an impact on learning outcomes, I should consider curating rather than creating.

Maybe the following would be a good start:

  1. Decide what it is that I wanted to write about.
  2. Find the strongest existing materials on this topic that I can.
  3. Decide if there’s something missing from it. Is there any way this can be added, or a supplementary material that can be recommended?
  4. Decide whether I would have been likely to find these materials if I were having the problem that they address. Is there anything I can do to make them more discoverable?
  5. Create a signpost. Either on my own site, or by adding to something like the awesome list of awesome lists.

Finally, because I love Ruby and because this is a resource that deserves another signpost, I was recently alerted to The Ruby Learning Center and its resources page. I hope they continue to grow. Hooray for the signpost makers and the librarians.

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