It’s been just over a week since I wrapped up the last day of the 31 Days of Android. This was a really fun series to work on but it took a lot out of me. Today I’d like to talk about some of the lessons learned during and after writing the series. These are tips that might be useful to you if you’re planning a long running series and are certainly things I’d like to remember going forward. Unlike the rest of the series, there won’t be any coding in this article.
Naming a blog series “31 Days of Android” and starting to post an article every day, kind of implies that you’re going to post an article every day for 31 days straight. Not 7 for the first 7 days and then 1 every other day for the next 48 days. It may not seem like it due to the quality of some of the articles (I can admit that many of them could be better) but each one takes a while to write. While some of them took a few hours, most of them took much longer. If you’re going to try to get one out every day, make sure you’ve got the time to commit to it or plan ahead.
If you’re going to get an article out every day and you know, or even suspect, that it’s going to take a while to write each one, write as many as you can ahead of time. I didn’t start the series until I had written rough drafts for about 8 articles. However, shortly after I started posting, I lost my 8 article head start. I think the big risk on not posting an article as soon as you’re done writing it is that it becomes irrelevant. This could have happened with my first entry which detailed out to set up and install your development environment. I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before Google releases a new version of the ADK that slightly alters the installation and setup steps. However, I think the risk is worth it to make sure you’re not putting too much work on your shoulders every night to get an article out each day. If you don’t plan ahead, you’ll need to make a decision about how much time you can devote to your writing.
Be Willing to Sacrifice or Be Flexible with Standards
Since I didn’t plan ahead appropriately, I ended up working several hours each night (and sometimes the following morning) to make sure I got an article out. I was insistent that I get out one article every single day and didn’t have a gap (one of the articles actually went out about 30 minutes after midnight on the following day). This meant that during the week I’d get home from work and then focus, as much as I could, on writing an article so it would be ready for posting the next morning. As a result, some of the articles I got out weren’t the best they could have been. Looking at some of the articles, it’s clear the quality and amount of information could have been better. I hadn’t planned on 3 days of Intents but had to move things to follow up articles when I ran out of time. At one point in the content provider article (deleting), I just didn’t have time to figure it out.
Sketch out your Series Plans
This is something I did before starting the series and was very thankful I had. Prior to starting writing on anything, I mapped out what I wanted to write about for each day of the series. My failure was in completing each article as planned. At some points I had to break out what I was writing into several days or move articles earlier or later in the series to make more sense. Having a roadmap already defined was key in making sure I still accomplished what I wanted in the series even when I was making cuts.
In the End
While this series took quite a toll on me, it was totally worth writing. I feel like I’ve learned a lot about both Android and blogging. I’m much more capable of explaining some of the concepts of Android now and that’s already coming in handy at work. Furthermore, I think future articles I write will benefit from this experience. I don’t know if I’ll write a “Days of” series again (and if it is, I don’t think it will be 31!), but I hope it will end up being a better experience having learned the lessons above.
The series ended just over a week ago and I’ve taken a much needed break from writing anything since then. I haven’t, however, taken a break from thinking about stuff I’d like to write about. At the beginning of November, I wrote an article about some thoughts on Siri and how Google could probably roll out a Siri like product. Shortly after that I had a quick Google Plus talk with a person in Developer Relations at Google about how they’d like to control their music with their voice. This was already somewhat possible using Voice Actions, but there were some pieces missing. I got motivated and wrote an Android app to handle it. Over the next couple of months I’m planning on open sourcing that program and writing some articles about how it works. Hopefully this will enable other developers to more easily get voice control into their own apps. In addition to that, there were a few articles I had to cut out of the 31 Days series (dialogs, maps, animations) that I would still like to write about. Some of these are stubs I’ve already created and should be able to get out soon(ish). Others will probably come later. Lastly, I’ve got a few more personal things to talk about (more beer brewing and chromebook experiences). If you’re finishing up reading the 31 Days of Android and have thoughts, feedback, or requests for other articles on Android development, let me know.