Juha-Matti Santala
Community Builder. Dreamer. Adventurer.

I gamified my own blog

Many platforms these days have some gamification features. One of the common features is awarding users/members/players different badges to reward their loyalty and activity in the platform.

You might have run into these. You get a fuzzy warm feeling inside when the dopamine rush hits you when you get a notification and a beautifully designed badge like this 4 year badge from DEV:

Notification for being awarded Four Year Club Badge at DEV Community

As you're reading this blog post in my own, self-hosted website at hamatti.org, there's no gamification features and nobody to award me with funny badges. Or well, at least there wasn't until now.

Introducing: my own badges.

I want to preface this by saying that I've done this with a tongue-in-cheek attitude and nobody should really take this seriously or read too much into it.

When Olavi got his 4  Week Streak badge last month, I started to think about these badges again. One of my goals with this personal blog is to maintain a consistent blog post every Wednesday pace. But I wasn't getting any badges to show for it. So I made one, just for some afternoon fun.

20 weeks in a row

And then it hit me.

There's nobody telling me I can't award myself some badges to have a bit of fun and to motivate myself to write. When I hit a new milestone, I design a new badge and add it to my blog. It's been March of 2020 for almost a year now and I need some extra positivity in my life.

As of today, I'm awarding myself 5 badges.

Self-hosted blog badge

Self-hosted blog badge

My first badge is for self-hosting a blog. There are a lot of benefits for running your own blog instead of blogging on platforms controlled by others, like DEV or Medium. Full control over your content and how it looks like, how it's shared and what features you can add. Want a paywall? It's your choice. Don't want your readers to be tracked? Your choice.

Sure, there are also downsides. With some platforms, you gain access to an audience and boost from the community that you might not get with self-hosted blog (my readership is way down compared to when I blogged at DEV) and it takes a bit more time to set up your own rather than registering an account on an existing platform.

I blogged for almost a decade on platforms run by others so I'm not saying it's a bad thing. But ever since I built my own and gave some serious love to the work that goes into this website, I've been very happy to fully own what I do.

Polyglot badge

Polyglot badge with colorful speech bubbles saying Javascript, Rust, Python, PHP

I've always been curious about many things and focusing on a single thing like language or other aspect of technology has never been my thing. So I'm proud to wear my Polyglot badge that I awarded for myself for writing technical posts about PHP, Javascript, Python and Rust.

20 weeks in a row badge

20 weeks in a row

As I already mentioned, my goal is to keep a consistent schedule and publish every Wednesday. There are a couple of reasons for this otherwise rather arbitrary goal:

  1. When it comes to content and building an audience, consistency goes a long way. By building a habit of publishing something every Wednesday, people who like my blog posts can learn that every Wednesday something's coming. Maybe it's through social media posts, maybe it's through RSS clients or making a note in their calendar. And when they end up visiting my blog, they can find a lot of good further reading.
  2. Writing is all about momentum. I fully acknowledge that with my schedule of one post per week, not all my posts are super well researched technical masterpieces. But I know from experience that every week that I don't write and publish, makes it more difficult to get started. So by maintaining a consistent habit of writing regularly, I increase the odds that my creative mind and my habits are hard-wired to write when those great ideas come to mind.

12 months without major rewrites

12 months without major rewrites

Hobby projects are often endless adventures in tinkering, improving and rewriting and that's what makes them fun. I decided to award myself a badge for resisting the urge to rewrite everything from scratch for over a year.

That has really helped me focus on writing. I have done small improvements over time and the site in general is quite an improvement from what it was a year ago but avoiding major rewrites is a good cause for celebration.

Many tech blogs start with a "this is how I built my blog" technical description blog post and then they are abandoned. I might have done a few of those in my past as well so this is bit of a sarcastic punch to the collective tech blog industry and developers' urge to rewrite underlying tech instead of writing blog posts.

100 posts published

text 100 with two candies in corners

My main blog that you're reading now, has over 100 blog posts since 2013. That's quite a nice number and a good reason for celebration. When I started blogging, I had hard time coming up with ideas on what to write about and had a lot of moments of impostor syndrome that kept me from blogging.

These days, blogging and learning in public has become a second nature to me and I love writing and sharing my ideas with the world. Next milestone: 150 posts!

What are your favorite badges?

If you like badges as much as I do, please share your favorites (either your own or awarded to you by other platforms) by replying to this tweet in Twitter.

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