Josh Chang is pretty interested in the work he does every day as a developer. And, he fears the silo. Having side projects in game development gives him a view of a wider world of code and developer tools. Writing about game development helps him tunnel so there are no silos (or at least they are connected). It also hones his time management and project management skills. One of Josh’s skills already stands out — communication.
The Person Behind the Role
Tell me about yourself. Where did you grow up, where do you live, where do you work, and what is your role?
I grew up in the Seattle area and still live there. I work for a Fortune 500 company as a web developer. I’m also helping a friend create a virtual reality (VR) game in his game studio. It’s something fun to do on the side.
What got you interested in your technical career?
I liked the opportunity to create things. That was especially important to me in my younger days, when I was more entrepreneurial. Internet marketing was just blossoming when I was a kid, and it was always an idea––a way I could make money. My dad was in computer science, too, so that was an influence. But, a big part of why I started programming was just to make something and try and make some money from it. It wasn’t until college that I got really into it and started taking classes. I studied computer science. I stuck with programming, but I realized the solo entrepreneur thing wasn’t working out for me, so I embarked on my current career. But I do still get some entrepreneurial experiences by helping my friend out in his game studio.
Why did you start writing about your work?
I don’t write about my work, I keep that line of separation, but I do write about game developing. I once felt like I never had a real expertise, but now I have more confidence in my own capabilities. So, now I write about game developing because it is a good way to learn something and share what I know. The best way to learn something is to teach it. It’s a good way to spend my free time instead of watching Netflix.
What attracted you to writing for ContentLab IO?
At first, purely financial reasons! Someone is paying me to write––that’s great! It turns out to be a pretty good side gig. That really got my attention. That being said, I also really like seeing what other technologies are out there. It keeps me from just being siloed in my work and the game studio.
How did you find out about ContentLab IO?
This goes back to my blogging. I was trying to syndicate my blog content to boost traffic, and one of the places I syndicated my content was CodeProject, which is also owned by Developer Media. CodeProject (CP) makes it really easy to syndicate content — I just add tags to my blog post, and CP crawls it. One day Chris Maunder from CP contacted me because he noticed my content. He asked me if I’d like to write for ContentLab IO. I was really flattered that he liked my content, and I thought, “Sure!”
What is your blog?
What positive changes in your professional or personal life have you seen since you started writing about programming?
Because I write mainly about game development, I don’t apply much of what I learn about the technology to my work. However, the biggest way it has helped me is time management. To write, I have to segment my time really carefully and plan my work and budget time for it. That has really translated well to my job where I apply the idea of planning work, sticking to a time limit, and realizing that if I hit a time limit without solving a problem, that’s an alert to find some help.
What written work are you most proud of?
If you look at my blog you’ll see this 100 days of Unity VR Development challenge. For this, I wrote something every day for 100 days. I finished this pretty recently––January 2019. If you look at these articles, they are what I did, why I did it, and how I did it. They are full-on tutorials.
So it was great, but now I have massive burnout in those areas. I don’t think I reached that big of an audience, because my blog didn’t have that many visitors. Only a couple of the articles from that series were really popular and saw a wide audience. If I were to do it again, I would do it differently. I think I would write about specific topics that would be of more interest.
On the other hand, having a constant stream of content was helpful in general and for SEO. I did get some readers through the project. I talked to friends who actually were following the blog pretty far into the series, and now I have more traffic on my blog. I also had a nice surprise that I thought people would flame me, but when I read the comments, I saw a lot of positive responses and questions.
What technical achievement are you most proud of?
Generally, I like to see what companies are doing: What is their technology, what is their API, what can you do with it. I really enjoyed writing the articles on Android development. I’ve done some Android development before, and I was excited to apply that to something new. So I like these opportunities to learn something new about a technology and get paid to do it. I’m just so interested in what companies are doing, developing, providing.
What challenges have you encountered in technical writing that surprised you?
For most things I blog about for myself, I would have plenty of time to figure it out, and I would have more resources because in game development, lots of people are doing it. In game development, chances are, someone else has already done whatever I don’t know how to do.
For what I was asked to do for one client, I really had to invest and learn and understand the process. The content was cool, because I was really writing something people didn’t know about and hadn’t written about. It was also challenging because I had a deadline. So that was a real stretch goal for me, because I had to work so hard to get the technical part working, then write about it. I was really out there trailblazing it.
How did you overcome them?
I did overcome that hurdle. I think what really helped in the end was I really communicated with the editors about the technical challenges and the solutions I created, and they gave me help on how to write the article to best satisfy the client. Communication was really key.
What words of wisdom would you like to share with other prospective technical authors?
Definitely that communication is important. But also, for developers who are prospective authors and struggle with confidence, I have to say that I’m also not great in the confidence department. If you are a prospective author sitting on the bench, I’d say just overcome your fears and give it a try. Don’t shy away, even if it’s a topic that stretches you. Take it on and see if you can figure it out. Don’t let a lack of confidence hold you back.
What words of wisdom would you like to share with prospective clients about the content creation process?
I have to say ContentLab IO really handles the content creation process. We get pretty detailed outlines, and that is really helpful. It makes it easier for the developer and author to meet your expectations. So, again, it comes down to communication so that ContentLab IO can create an outline that includes what you want.
Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you’d like to share with our audience?
I’d ask, “If you are already a technical author, how do you succeed as a ContentLab IO author?”
I think the key to success rests in how you approach your work. My advice is constant communication with your editors. Ask questions. If you don’t understand something, ask rather than just running with your own idea or interpretation.
Also tell your editor if you run into any problems. Let your editor know what your progress is in the first week and midway through the project so everyone is happy and no one is worried about delivery. Checking in regularly with your editor also helps you with time management.
I think a final piece of advice is related to how to avoid writer’s block. Write your own outline based on the outline you are given. That really helps organize the project and the article. Prevent writer’s block by writing out headers and subheadings of what you are planning to write, then write them in chunks a little at a time. This also feeds into effective time management.
To summarize, keys to success include:
- Communication—especially letting people know where you are in the project.
- Ask questions if you are confused or having trouble. Take advantage of your editors.
- Prevent writer’s block by writing your own outline with headings and subheadings
I think this advice carries over into your professional career, too. Remember, what we do is not a one person job. Reach out.
For the Road
Josh writes to stay current and avoid getting stuck in a silo. He loves his side gig, game development. Writing about game development to keep himself challenged has led to writing for ContentLab IO. The best part about writing — his process for writing has improved his time management and project management as a developer. And, he has really learned the value of communication, especially going to those you respect and who have experience to get help. He advises other developers and would-be technical writers, “Remember, what we do is not a one person job. Reach out.”