Should you know Programming, if you are Blogging?

As I and a bunch of other bloggers in the region have founded Chandigarh Bloggers Alliance – I am working my level best to educate more and more people in and around Chandigarh about blogs, bloggers and blogging. When I introduce my friends at college to the word blogging, the first question that they ask me (even before I tell them how setting up and maintaining a blog is so easy) is that Do they need to be hardcore programmers, or web developers to be good bloggers?

It is difficult (but very interesting) to tell them how programming and blogging are related to each other and what factors decide the extent to which one should know programming to be a better blogger. Thus comes this post that will tell you in what cases will you need to learn elementary programming, and in what scenario you should be a avid programmer. Or, in what scenario you don’t even need to know what programming is!

Most of the bloggers that read Inspirit Blog are either already bloggers, or want to start blogging and gathering tips, tricks, thoughts and ideas on why to blog and how to blog. This post (in some way) would be useful to both of these sections of my readership. Let’s proceed to the subject of this post.

You don’t need to know anything about programming when:

Today, starting a blog is as easy as A B C. You go and register for a free account at free blog hosts like Blogger or WordPress – this step takes a minute to complete. The next step is to chose a theme (or design template) which takes a few seconds depending on how hard is it to chose a color scheme, for you, to go with the subject of your blog. When you are done with this, you type in your first blog post in the Rich Text Editor (also called WYSIWYG – What You See Is What You Get) and hit the publish button to become a “blogger”!

In this case, you don’t even need to think about the word PROGRAMMING! The blog software (blogger/wordpress) etc is already loaded with all the basic features and installed for you. Once you sign up for an account, all you need to do is write and hit Publish.

You need to know something about programming when:

Sometimes you may not be happy with the images that came with the default template that you chose. Or you may not like its alignment. In other cases, you want to format your blog-post into tables so that everything is ordered and placed well, you may need to add alt text to images, some attributes to the hyperlinks so that they open in either the same window or a new window.

In case your blogging software (WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, etc.) do not allow easier ways to do these – you need to have a very elementary knowledge of HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) so that you can make minor changes to your template to serve your purpose. In case you want to add third party functionality to your blog, you’re required to copy-paste some code snippet into your blog template.

In this scenario, knowing where and how to insert the code would be goof. It is helpful for anyone to know what anchor tag is or how to add various attributes to links and images. You don’t need to learn HTML (or PHP, XML, etc. whatever your blog uses) hardcore! Just a basic understanding of what does what, would do.

You need to know everything about programming when:

You need to know everything about programming when you’re planning to make your own custom themes, or you need to tweak it to the extent that looking up the code, or moving snippets here and there won’t solve your problems to your satisfaction. In this case, you need to know what all programming languages are used by your blogging software to render a blog.

Generally, you need to know HTML and CSS for the design of the blog, while the PHP functions, Javascript, etc add functionality to the blog. If you know all (or most of these, as required) you’re a developer because what you’re doing with these languages is web development.

A special case, in which you must have in-depth knowledge of (not necessarily HTML, CSS or web related languages) programming languages is when programming (or that particular programming language) is the subject of your blog. You cannot write a good blog without in-depth knowledge of the subject of your blog.

There are various free tutorials and cheat sheets available online that can help you in getting familiar with basic. Also, if you read blogs (like this one!) you’ll find various tutorials on how to do the most basic things for your blog – like how to make a link open in a new window or tab or How to customize Feedburner RSS Email Subscription Form. If you get stuck somewhere, search the internet and you’ll always find something resourceful. Read books on programming, web design and development if you need to, or for the sake of interest. You may not need to be perfect, but knowing at least the important and frequently used code certainly helps.

Not being good in programming won’t decrease your value as a blogger – as long as you’re writing great content and marketing your blog well. But having some knowledge is certainly an added advantage that will give you an edge above the others. It all depends on how passionate you’re about it, how bad do you need to learn programming or how keenly interested you are in knowing how things work.