This year I had the chance to speak at two R-Ladies meetups (I might have invited myself to those meetups to make the most of being in town, create your own happiness!), one in Cape Town in March, one in Seattle in May. It was a blast both times! I gave the same talk twice, and decided it was about time to write it up.
My talk in March was aimed at pairing, well tripleting, with Marie Dussault’s talk about setting up your blogdown website, and Stephanie Kovalchik’s talk about sports blogging so it is not about these topics. What it is is my non data-driven, quite personal view on blog content and promotion, which hopefully features some useful tips for any wannabe R blogger!
Why R blogging and why blogging about R blogging
The reason why I suggested the topic of the Cape Town R-Ladies meetup to be blogging is that it helped me get plugged in into the R community, so I liked the idea of sharing my experience, especially with R-Ladies. I don’t have Google analytics for my blog so I don’t actually know how successful my blog is, but I’ve got enough positive feedback to consider I’m doing something right. That said, given my lack of data to support anything I’ll say, please take everything with a pinch of salt!
R Blog content
What to blog about?
There are plenty of R things you could blog about!
Your latest R obsession? Me in https://www.masalmon.eu/2018/02/22/hexcombine/
Something you’ve just implemented? Omayma Said http://omaymas.github.io/prophet_explore/
Something you like! Kasia Kulma https://kkulma.github.io/2017-12-16-star-wars-vs-star-trek-word-battle/
Fun packages? Find inspiration in Mine Çetinkaya-Rundel’s list http://www2.stat.duke.edu/courses/Fall17/sta112.01/assignment/08-mini-hw.html
I especially like the point Edwin Thoen made in this post: you can blog about things you’ve just learnt, it’s actually a good thing!
Then, an important aspect of R blogging is that you don’t need to blog about R code! Examples of relevant R content I’ve seen include:
A list of things that helped you learn Lorna Maria Aine in https://medium.com/@lornamariak/r-libraries-to-aid-you-learn-data-science-in-2018-30eaaf7cc050
Your experience at an event e.g. Jasmine Dumas in https://jasdumas.github.io/2017-05-28-runconf17-experience/
Your experience at work e.g. Julia Silge in https://juliasilge.com/blog/one-year-at-stack/
Now, if you still have trouble finding ideas, you can find inspiration by… reading other blogs! I’d particularly recommend:
R Weekly newsletter https://rweekly.org/
#rstats on Twitter https://twitter.com/search?q=%23rstats&src=savs
How to get stuff done?
I’m not a self-help master so I’ll be very brief here. It’s obviously important to proofread and do your best but don’t let stress and perfectionism spoil the fun. Most often you won’t get paid for blogging, so you should enjoy it! Do not get too ambitious in each post, and at some point, just ship it. Each post needs to be good enough, just good enough. I particularly liked this article of Kasia Kulma’s about getting stuff done when blogging and recommend it for better phrased thoughts than mine: https://kkulma.github.io/2017-12-29-end-of-year-thoughts/
Another aspect of getting blogging done is I think not losing your precious ideas. I used to have an empty GitHub repo with issues, just for the pleasure of then closing them, now I tend to write ideas in a notebook, maybe for the pleasure of striking through them. Other strategies I’ve heard of include having a Trello board or taping sticky notes on a cupboard.
Besides, when you have an idea, explore it by googling it. If you find similar work, link it in your post.
My favorite thing to do when writing any blog post is linking the heck out of everything because I want every post to be a multi-directional springboard for curious people.— Mikhail Popov (@bearloga) January 8, 2018
Last but not least, use your own authentic voice when blogging. I think it makes blogging easier, and more enjoyable for readers, at least I like how informal blogging can be and laugh as much as I learn when reading e.g. Brooke Watson. As regards the language, if you’re not an English native speaker, you can choose to blog in English or your own language, or both like Daniela Vázquez https://d4tagirl.com/ !
Promoting your posts is crucial, because no matter how good your blog is, you need to help it find its audience!
How to tweet about your post
Twitter is an important medium for publicizing your work. If you don’t have an account, consider getting one. Here is my recipe for tweeting a blog post.
Title of your post, maybe a short intro, but do not add a self-deprecatory comment here. Please, don’t.
Link to your post.
#rstats and other hashtags if needed, but do not use too many hashtags, in particular because it creates visual clutter (and in my opinion can give the (wrong) impression of being too thirsty).
A figure or a gif, to make your tweet stand out (in the timelines of Twitter users, in the #rstats timeline)
Emojis! If you like them of course.
You can tag people who inspired you, or whose great package is featured in your post, but proceed with caution. Tagging someone whose package isn’t too popular (e.g. me, ahah) will result in making this person’s happy and often in your tweet getting re-tweeted by them. Also keep in mind that having too many Twitter handles in your tweet is like having too many hashtags, it doesn’t always look good.
Add your blog to lists and feeds aggregator!
There are lists of blogdown blogs where you can list your blog:
https://support.rbind.io/about/ if you use their domain name (I don’t know much about rbind.io)
You should also create an RSS feed for your blog if it doesn’t have one yet. Since this post of mine isn’t too technical, I’d recommend googling the name of your website tool and “RSS feed”. Once you have an RSS feed featuring the entire content of your posts, your readers will be able to subscribe, and you can submit your RSS feed to aggregators!
The most famous one, and oldest one, where my own blog is featured, maintained by Tal Galili https://www.r-bloggers.com/add-your-blog/ It might take a while for your feed to be added, don’t take it personally.
Take advantages of networks and other voice-amplifying opportunities
First of all, depending on the topic of your post or of your blog in general, share links to your posts with your potential (niche) audience!
Then, if you’re an R-Lady (as a reminder, this doesn’t mean women only but instead “minority genders (including but not limited to cis/trans women, trans men, non-binary, genderqueer, agender)"), share your posts with your local chapter or R-Ladies remote and don’t hesitate to ping R-Ladies Global (quoting your tweet, not adding the handle in your tweet, in order to keep it clean).
If you use one of rOpenSci’s packages, please post the link to rOpenSci’s discussion forum in the Use Cases category and tag Scott Chamberlain (
@sckott) for inclusion in the rOpenSci biweekly newsletter.
Also, do not miss this offer of David Robinson’s:
Last but not least, I’m getting (even more) preachy and recommend being the blog reader you want to see
Leave comments: compliments, questions, suggestions, corrections.
Share links with your network!
Link it back on your blog.
That’s all from me, now I’ll follow my own advice and ship this post! Happy R blogging!
Edited to add: I didn’t mention Search Engine Optimization because I don’t know much about that, but wanted to add a link to the blogdown book relevant section: https://bookdown.org/yihui/blogdown/useful-resources.html#helping-people-find-your-site