Creating your digital self helps you express who you are and what you are about online in a way that enhances your career and also help you in your daily work. Having a recognizable digital self also allow others to reach out to you and include you in the wider community.
Here are some tips and tools to help you create a consistent expression of your digital self.
By creating a single name for your presence across all the communication channels you use makes it easier for people to find you and know that its really you.
I created the short name jr0cket, based on my real name John Stevenson. Robert Stephenson created the Rocket, the steam locamotive that set the standard for the first railway network. As my name is John and at the time I was doing a lot of Java development I added j to the rocket to create jrocket. However, when I tried to get this name on Twitter, it was already taken (although not used), so I changed the o to a zero and created jr0cket.
At the same time I created a new domain, jr0cket.co.uk and ensured all my other social media and websites about me used jr0cket in some way.
Domain names are relatively cheap (£5-£10 a year) and allow you to have a consistent name for your email, blog and any other websites you use. You should be able to create sub-domains for each of your websites I recommend domain name providers such as NameCheap or Gandi.
Using a real picture of yourself is very valuable as it allows your digital presence to easily extend to the physical world. People are much more likely to talk to you and feel comfortable around you if they have seen your face online. Having a real picture of you helps make your digital presence unique and makes people feel like they are talking to a real person.
Try and use the same picture everywhere and update that picture every few years so its a realistic image of yourself (this is a good motivation to keep healthy).
I find twitter one of the simplest and most effective ways of reaching out to people. Twitter can also be an invaluable research tool, allowing you to easily find interesting articles to read by following a particular topic - ie. a hash tag. For example, I am learning a programming language called Clojure, so I use Twitter to follow the hashtag #clojure. This keeps me up to date with new features of the language, events relating to Clojure and interesting articles people have shared.
As you follow more people on twitter your main feed can get very noisy and move too fast to follow effectively. Therefore the idea of following users, hashtags or lists of people you have created makes using Twitter more effective.
I recommend using tools like TweetDeck that allow you to watch several things at once, all of which should move in a more reasonable pace to keep up with.
To be successful at blogging, you should write about things that are of most interest to you or the activities you are involved in every week. Having a strong connection to the topic you blog about helps you attain a regular cadence in your writing.
Writing regularly is a simple and effective way to build up an audience and give you more credibility with developers and potential employers. One article a week is a good cadence for most individual blogs, more than one if its a larger team blogging and there is enough meaningful content to share.
If there are special events you are engaged, such as product releases or conferences, then there can be value in blogging more. By understanding who is visiting your sites and how often you can get a feeling of an appropriate cadence for new posts.
I often Google for answers to specific development challenges, or simply to look for some good examples and tutorials. If I am lucky I find the the answer I am looking for, described in an easy way for me to understand. However most of the time I discover the solution by reviewing several websites and combining their information. By writing my own article to cover the challenge & solution I took, the next time I come across this challenge I have the answer available in a way I can easily understand and apply.
By writing a blog on the specific challenge or writing my own version of a tutorial helps me in the long run in two ways
The title and first 2 lines of your blog post will determine if most people read the rest of your article. It can take some practice to convey what an article is about in such a short amount of words. Take a look at other blogs and consider if the title and initial words make you want to read the article (or at least help you understand the value of reading the article).
It can be useful to use a thumbnail image as a visual representation of the topic or main theme of your blog post. Images in your articles should support and re-enforce the concepts you are trying to convey.
There are many blog platforms out there, all with their pro’s and con’s. Choose one that suits your needs and if not sure just pick the one that is easiest to use and re-evaluate that decision later on.
Google Analytics has a free plan that will allow you to see a lot of valuable information about the visitors to your website or blog.
- when people are visiting your website
- if they new or return visitors
- approximate geographical location
- the browser & operating system they are using
You can use Google Analytics for your blog to see when you get the most visitors and have a better insight into the best time to post new articles.
LinkedIn is a very useful service for defining your previous work history, acting as an online CV that you have full control over (recruitment consultants have been know to change or re-organise the information in an off-line document before sending to their customers).
Getting a good reference from your manager is not always possible, so its useful to encourage your colleagues to give you recommendations via LinkedIn. A good time to ask is when your colleagues have just benefited from some work you have done for them. You can review the recommendation they have given you before it is published on your LinkedIn profile.
Github is a great way to use the code others have created as well as sharing your own (or even just using Github as a backup for your code). Many employers are looking at a persons contributions via Github to help them assess development skills.
Typically it will be other developers or development mangers that will review a candidates activity on Github. There are many things they could be looking for, including
- Open Source projects contributed to
- Languages used in projects
- Level of experience you have with code
- How well you write, test & document code
It is also common to look for project documentation or blog posts that describe in more detail the design choices taken in a project.
In many development communities your contributions to Stack Exchange are seen in a very positive light. If you are quite active on certain parts of Stack Exchange you are quickly perceived as an experienced person on that subject, even if you feel you still have a lot to learn.
The best way to learn it to try and teach another. Stack Exchange is a fun and engaging way to help others whilst helping you validate how much you have learned about a particular subject.
Services like Slack and Gitter provide a way for you to interact with the community in real time. This is most useful if you are actively involved in the community (or are wanting to become more involved).
Gitter is especially useful when you are collaborating around a code repository on Github. It also can show notifications of commits and pull requests made to the repository.
- About.me - easily create a highly visual page that conveys who you are
Creating and managing a consistent and realistic digital presence is a very valuable way of reaching out to the wider community. It also helps you make connections that are invaluable for your career as well as your daily life.
If you have a significant change in what you do or how you want to be percieved, dont forget to update your entire digital presence to reflect this.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 ShareAlike License, including custom images & stylesheets. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at @jr0cket